Malocclusions are classified when the upper and lower jaw do not properly fit together. Dr. Aly Kanani is here to tell you all about them including how they affect your oral health
Malocclusion: What Is It Really?
A malocclusion also known as an irregular bite is a common dental problem that Dr. Kanani and his team see all the time. When you have malocclusion, your upper and lower teeth don’t align properly when you close your jaw. Malocclusion typically happens when your teeth are crowded — meaning your teeth are too large for your mouth — or are crooked. But it can also happen if your upper and lower jaws aren’t aligned. Malocclusion is usually treated with orthodontics or braces. Some more serious malocclusion might require surgery.
Can malocclusion affect my health?
If malocclusion is not treated, it can sometimes lead to several health problems. Not only will it cause dental problems such as tooth decay, jaw problems and gum disease, but it can also affect how you chew your food and it can cause damage to your tooth enamel.
Just as important, untreated malocclusion can affect your mental health. Researchers have found connections between malocclusion and self-esteem. Some studies show people who have malocclusion avoid social situations and relationships because they feel self-conscious about their appearance.
What causes malocclusion?
Malocclusion can happen as a result of several different things:
- You sucked your thumb frequently as a baby or toddler.
- Your teeth are too large for your jaw, causing your teeth to crowd together and affecting the alignment of your upper and lower jaw.
- You lost a tooth and your remaining teeth shifted to fill that gap.
- You have an inherited condition that affects your jaw, causing your teeth to be misaligned.
Can teeth grinding (bruxism) cause malocclusion?
There is evidence to suggest that there is a link between grinding your teeth and malocclusions.
Can malocclusion cause temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD)?
Malocclusion can sometimes lead to TMJ disorders, which are disorders that affect your jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments.
Symptoms of malocclusion
The overall look of your smile is the most common indicator of the condition. It can cause noticeable over and underbites as well as overjets. Overbite or overjet happens when teeth in your lower jaw are too far behind the teeth in your upper jaw. Underbite happens when your upper front teeth are too far behind your lower front teeth. Other symptoms are:
- Difficulty or discomfort when biting or chewing
- Speech difficulties are rare but include a lisp
- Mouth breathing
- Inability to bite into food correctly
How is malocclusion diagnosed by your dentist or orthodontist?
Your dentist will take a look at your jaw during every routine examination. If they notice any issues they will look further into it, and potentially even take X-rays and impressions of your teeth to determine the extent of the issue. Your regular provider will refer you to an orthodontist for malocclusion treatment.
What are malocclusion classes?
Malocclusions are a bit more complicated than they sound. There are actually 3 classes based on your bite and whether your upper or lower teeth are misaligned:
- Class 1: This is the most common form of the condition. The bite is normal, but the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth.
- Class 2: These malocclusions, called retrognathism or overbite, occur when the upper jaw and teeth severely overlap the bottom jaw and teeth.
- Class 3: Called prognathism or underbite, occurs when the lower jaw protrudes or juts forward, causing the lower jaw and teeth to overlap the upper jaw and teeth.
Can your dentist or orthodontist fix malocclusion?
Treatment for malocclusion might include:
- Braces - Adding braces to your teeth that will gently pull them into alignment. The braces’ gentle consistent tug on your teeth reshapes the underlying bone in your tooth socket so your teeth are permanently shifted.
- Clear Aligners - These are clear plastic appliances that gradually move your teeth into alignment.
- Extraction - Extracting teeth to limit the amount of overcrowding.
- Surgery - Performing surgery on your jaw to correct issues you inherited or fix jaw fractures that didn’t heal properly.
Can I prevent malocclusion?
Malocclusion is often understood to be a hereditary condition and therefore is not something that can be prevented necessarily. In some cases, however, you can prevent malocclusion in your children by discouraging them from sucking their thumbs. You can develop malocclusion if you lose teeth. If you’ve lost teeth, consider replacing the missing teeth with dental implants or dental bridges.