What is Malocclusion?
Malocclusion refers to a misaligned bite, caused when the upper and lower teeth don’t come together properly when the mouth is closed. In a properly-aligned bite, the upper teeth should slightly overlap the lower teeth, with the points of the molars fitting into the grooves of the molars opposite them.
When the teeth don’t fit together in a proper bite, it can cause difficulty with eating and speaking and may lead to potential health problems, such as increasing the likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease. An improper bite can also cause irregular enamel wear or result in jaw problems.
What Causes Malocclusion?
Often, malocclusion is inherited and passed down through families through genetics. It can be the result of the size or shape of the jaw or teeth causing teeth to be overcrowded or come together abnormally. Sometimes, malocclusion is the result of missing or extra teeth, which has caused the other teeth to shift positions. A misaligned bite can also result from childhood thumb-sucking or prolonged use of a pacifier or bottle.
Symptoms of Malocclusion
Malocclusion is often noticeable just by appearance, but there are other symptoms that may indicate an improperly-aligned bite. Some symptoms include:
- Visible misalignment of teeth – Crowded teeth, crossbite, overbite, underbite, open bite
- Abnormal appearance of the face
- Difficulties with chewing and biting
- Speech impediments or a lisp
How is Malocclusion Treated?
Teeth that are perfectly aligned naturally are rare, and not all misaligned teeth will require treatment. It is best to check with your dentist or an orthodontist to find out what may be needed in your case. Typically, malocclusion can be addressed via orthodontic treatment such as traditional braces or clear aligner trays such as Invisalign. If the improper bite is due to irregularly shaped teeth, these issues can be treated via reshaping the enamel or through dental bonding. In some cases where teeth are overcrowded, tooth extraction may be recommended in order to make more room. Surgery is sometimes called for in cases where reshaping the jaw is the best way to address major bite issues.