Many people have the misconception that modern orthodontic treatment is purely cosmetic. However, fixing your smile is more than superficial. Malocclusion is a common problem that creates bite problems, which, if left untreated, can lead to problems later on.
What is Malocclusion?
Occlusion means the way your teeth align laterally and come together vertically. A smile has excellent occlusion when the teeth line up with each other side-to-side and top-to-bottom.
Malocclusion is the opposite. It is a deviation from the ideal. Most smiles have at least some malocclusion. However, all smiles do not need treatment for the difference. As Healthline puts it, the type of deviation varies:
- Crowded Teeth: When the teeth do not have space, they do not line up correctly with each other.
- Crossbite: Teeth that are closer to the tongue or the cheek than the tooth opposing them in either the upper or lower arch have a crossbite.
- Overbite: An overbite diagnosis means the upper teeth overlap the front teeth. A little bit of overlap is standard; a lot of overlap is not.
- Underbite: If your lower teeth extend further forward than your upper teeth, you have an underbite.
- Open Bite: When there is still a space between your upper and lower teeth when your jaw is closed, you have an open bite.
There are different classifications of malocclusions:
- Class 1 means the bite is reasonable and the overlap is slight. This class is the most common type of malocclusion.
- Class 2 means there is a severe overbite.
- Class 3 means there is a severe underbite.
The symptoms of malocclusion are more than the appearance of the teeth in the mouth, however. There are physical symptoms, too. Sometimes how your face looks is different because of malocclusion. You might bite your tongue or cheeks often or have discomfort when you are eating. Sometimes, you might develop a lisp or suffer from other speech problems. It can also lead to breathing through the mouth instead of the nose (aka, mouth-breathing).
Malocclusion can be passed down from your parents. However, some other conditions and habits contribute to malocclusion, like:
Physical problems. Physical issues can cause malocclusion. Some examples include a cleft lip and palate, injury to the jaw, abnormally shaped teeth or teeth that are impacted, which means the tooth is unable to come through the gum. Also obstructed airways from allergies or enlarged glands can lead to misalignment of teeth.
Pathological problems. An example could be tumors in the oral environment or jaw.
Behavioral influences. Sometimes habits lead to malocclusion, like using a pacifier after the child reaches age 3, or thumb sucking in early childhood.
Poor dental care. When restorations to your teeth, like fillings, crowns, or braces occur, it can cause problems with your bite.
How is it Treated?
Malocclusion is usually treated with braces inside the mouth and affixed to the teeth. The brackets and wires can reposition the teeth and jaw into a healthy bite.
More severe cases might need headgear, which helps reposition the jaw using internal and external wires and straps around the patients head. Used for both overbites and underbites, headgear is worn from 12-14 hours a day.
In some cases of underbite, the orthodontist might use an Upper Jaw Expander. The device is a wireframe that fits along the upper palate. The patient then widens the device a little bit every night using a key. Per Colgate, after a year, the upper jaw will usually be expanded enough to correct the issue.
A Reverse Pull Face Mask will also correct underbites. Using wires attached to brackets on the upper back teeth, the face mask wraps around the patients head while they sleep and pulls the upper jaw into alignment.
Surgery is also an option for some cases. However, this is rare and usually only used when the malocclusion is so severe it is difficult to eat and sleep. In this case, an oral maxillofacial surgeon will correct the jaw misalignments using plates, screws, and wires.
What Happens if Malocclusion is Left Untreated?
If you choose not to correct the misalignment of your bite, you could have complications with your oral health over time. Some of the most common are more decay as misaligned teeth can be harder to keep clean. Malocclusion has also been linked to periodontal disease, which is an infection of your gums. The bacteria in gum disease can lead to inflammation and has been linked to other health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Untreated severe gum disease often results in tooth loss.
There are also problems outside of oral health. Untreated malocclusion can also make it difficult to chew, which can lead to digestive problems and loss of nutrients from food that is not broken down enough going to the stomach. Also, it can change the way you look and talk, which can lead to self-esteem issues based on how your peers react to you.
If you or someone you love might have any of these symptoms of malocclusion, go see an orthodontist to determine the severity of the misalignment and whether it is a good idea to treat it. He or she can give you a treatment plan that takes into account the patient’s age and risk factors for further complications.
To schedule your free consultation today, call Bloom Orthodontics office in Long Beach at 562-421-8883.
Bloom Orthodontics in Long Beach has a long history of improving our patients’ smiles. We provide modern orthodontic treatments delivered with old fashioned excellence in patient experience. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
“Malocclusion of the Teeth.” Healthline.com. Web. 19 July 2019. <https://www.healthline.com/health/malocclusion-of-teeth#features>.
“Malocclusion.” Stanfordchildrens.org. Web. 19 July 2019. <https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=malocclusion-90-P01860>.
Green, Jenny. “Misaligned Jaw and Treatment Options.” www.colgate.com Web. 19 July 2019. <https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/cosmetic-dentistry/adult-orthodontics/misaligned-jaw-and-treatment-options-0516>.