When people think of orthodontics, they tend to visualize teeth straightening using metal braces or clear plastic aligners. But orthodontics is about more than just beautifully straightened teeth. It also corrects a misaligned bite! Malocclusions are what we orthodontists call “mismatched teeth” or jaw problems because of a misaligned bite. It is also more common than you might think! Around 2/3 of adults experience some malocclusion that can interfere with their oral health.
Orthodontists refer to occlusion as where your teeth meet when you close your mouth. So essentially, where your upper and lower jaws contact those teeth. Ideally, we want your teeth to sit comfortably inside your mouth with a slight overlap as the upper jaw meets your lower jaw when closing your mouth. The molars need to be able to fit into the grooves of the molars opposite them. What we don’t want to see is crowded teeth, diastema (tooth gaps), or teeth that are rotated or twisted. When your teeth deviate from what they should be, you will be dealing with malocclusion.
Classes of Malocclusion
As the most common type of malocclusion, you’ll see that the molars align as well as minor crowding in the back teeth with a slight overlap.
Class II: Called an overbite, the upper teeth greatly overlap the lower jaw and teeth.
Class III: Called an underbite, in these cases, the lower jaw protrudes, so the lower teeth overlap the upper jaw and teeth.
There are several different kinds of malocclusions that can cause trouble with your smile. Don’t ignore the following:
When some bottom teeth meet outside the upper teeth when you close your mouth.
Open bite: Your upper and lower teeth tip outwards, unable to come together when you close your mouth.
Overbite: Your upper teeth and jaw overlap severely over the lower teeth and jaw.
Overcrowding: Your permanent teeth don’t have enough space to grow straight so that you have teeth that overlap or end up crooked, rotated, or twisted.
Overjet: Your upper front teeth extend past your bottom lower teeth.
Spacing: You see spaces between two or more teeth where there should be none.
Underbite: Where your lower teeth protrude past your upper teeth when your mouth is closed.
How You Know if You Have a Malocclusion
- You notice abnormal wear and tear on your teeth
- You have misaligned teeth
- You have trouble biting and chewing food
- You see changes in your facial profile
- You keep biting your tongue or the inside of your cheeks
- You keep getting headaches
- Your constantly grind your teeth (bruxism)
- You have pain in the neck, shoulder and upper back
- Your speech is affected
- You have teeth, jaw and mouth pain
- You are a mouth breather
Diagnosing malocclusions usually involves having dental X-rays and an examination. Then our orthodontist can determine the cause and recommend proper corrective treatment. Treatment might involve wearing an orthodontic appliance like braces, aligners or retainers. Other solutions might include extracting teeth, reshaping teeth, stabilizing the jaw with plates and wires, or using a palatal expander.
Call for an Orthodontic Evaluation
Malocclusions typically get worse if they are not addressed, even to the point where brushing and flossing become difficult, leaving you vulnerable to cavities, gum disease and, over time, tooth loss. If you suspect you might have malocclusion, we invite you to come in for a consultation and evaluation. Our orthodontist can help you get the aligned smile you deserve!