Malocclusion is an improper fit and alignment of the teeth and jaws. It can be divided into two categories,“crooked teeth” or a “poor bite”.
Malocclusion made be caused by:
Inherited Traits - Traits such as jaw size and tooth size are inherited but they are often in conflict. For example, you may have a small jaw but large teeth which causes crowd-
ing. Conversely, you may have a large jaw and small teeth causing your teeth to be widely spaced or “drift” out of place. Other inherited traits include: missing teeth, teeth that erupt in the wrong place (transposed with other teeth), or congenital defects such as a cleft palate or severely underdeveloped upper or lower jaw.
Oral Habits - Oral habits such as thumb or finger sucking, pacifier use, and possibly mouth breathing are related to malocclusion.
Tooth Loss - Tooth loss from accidents or decay can cause the remaining teeth to drift into new positions. Mild malocclusion causes no functional problems and little cosmetic concern, while severe cases may cause difficulty eating and speaking and can be a source of embarrassment. Crowding is the most common type of malocclusion. In children, early crowding of their permanent teeth may prevent the remaining teeth from coming in properly. However, mild crowding may be corrected naturally as the child’s jaw grows. Your orthodontist will be able to evaluate your specific condition. With or without correction, the teeth have a natural tendency to drift towards the front of the jaw. As a result, 65% of adults eventually end up with crowed, lower front teeth.
The most common symptom of malocclusion is crooked or protruding teeth. Physical symptoms of malocclusion are rare; however, you can look for the following:
• In children, permanent teeth may come in (erupt) out of their normal position
• Difficulty in chewing due to bite alignment
• Biting the cheeks or the roof of the mouth
• Speech difficulties
• Pain in the jaws or facial muscles
• In adults, symptoms will remain the same or worsen over the years. To be sure it is recommended to have your dentist assess your bite.
Don’t want to be a “metal-mouth”? Today’s orthodontists can often offer adults and children a selection of aesthetically pleasing options. These include “invisible” braces, clear braces and wires and may also include appliances worn only at night or on a limited basis. Ask your orthodontist about the pro and cons of these options for your condition.