What Is Malocclusion?
“Occlusion” is a word that describes how your teeth fit together when you bite down. The prefix “mal-” means something unfavorable. So “malocclusion” literally means a bad bite.
Malocclusion is a common condition when teeth don’t fit together properly. A misaligned jaw or teeth don’t just look bad; they can also lead to a number of dental health complications including:
In severe cases, poor teeth occlusion can even cause speech and eating difficulties.
Misaligned teeth can be caused by a wide variety of factors. Usually, tooth alignment, good or bad, is coded in a person’s genetics. So many instances of malocclusion of teeth in children can be seen in their parents’ teeth, as well.
Other factors that can make teeth crooked include:
Class 1 Malocclusion
Class I malocclusion refers to teeth that are in healthy alignment in relation to the jaw size and positioning but have other alignment issues such as crowding.
According to one study, a class II malocclusion is the most common issue seen in European orthodontic offices.
But other studies indicate that on the global level, class I malocclusion is actually the most common.
Class 2 Occlusion
A class II malocclusion is when the upper teeth jut out too far forward. Or rather, the lower teeth are positioned too far back from the upper ones because the jaw is too small or too short. Teeth in this kind of occlusion are prone to present other problems like overjet and overbite.
Class 3 Occlusion
Class III occlusion happens when the lower jaw is too big for the upper teeth. The lower front teeth may jut out like a bulldog’s or there may be a noticeably wide jaw or prominent chin.
Other Teeth Alignment Problems
Class I, II, and III malocclusions all refer to the relationship between the upper and lower jaws in the bite. These malocclusions will mainly affect how your profile looks.
Besides the three basic malocclusion classifications, there are a few other alignment problems that can create an unhealthy bite by affecting your teeth on an individual basis. These include:
As you can see, there are many combinations of problems that can add up to create a unique malocclusion.
How to Treat Malocclusion
Malocclusion doesn’t resolve on its own. In fact, it may only get worse with time. This is especially true for kids and teens whose jaws are still rapidly growing and changing.
To successfully reverse malocclusion and enjoy a more balanced bite, then you’ll need some kind of treatment.
There are multiple ways to correct misaligned teeth. Your dentist or a local orthodontist can help you choose the right procedure.
This is a device that’s usually recommended for children with crossbites or not enough space for their adult teeth to grow in. The expander slowly widens the bone at the roof of the mouth so that the upper teeth eventually line up correctly with the lower teeth.
Most misaligned teeth can only be fixed by physically moving them into a new location, in other words, by teeth shifting. But if your bite is only slightly off, then it’s possible your dentist can correct it with restorative dentistry.
Sometimes, dental restorations have to be combined with orthodontic treatment such as braces in order to thoroughly resolve malocclusion. For example, if you’re missing a tooth and the gap in your smile has caused other teeth to drift out of alignment, then you’d need braces to correct those teeth and then an implant or dental bridge to close the gap and brace your teeth.
Extreme cases of malocclusion might have very little to do with the teeth. Instead, such cases might need to be treated with orthognathic surgery that reconstructs or resizes the jaw. This surgery may also be preceded by and/or followed up with some time in braces.
Braces are the most popular and traditional way of correcting malocclusion. By putting pressure on teeth and moving them, braces can correct any type of malocclusion as long as the jaw bone isn’t involved. Braces consist of metal brackets that are cemented onto the front surface of teeth and a thin metal archwire that runs through the brackets. As the wire is gradually tightened by an orthodontist over time, it pulls the teeth into even alignment.
But if you need braces to correct your malocclusion, you’re not limited to the traditional look of metal brackets and wires. There are several different types of braces that you might be able to choose from including ceramic braces and lingual braces.
Traditional braces do have some drawbacks, however.
For example, the metal brackets are highly susceptible to collecting dental plaque bacteria. As these bacteria gather on the brackets, they can cause the surrounding dental enamel to start to demineralize. Demineralization is the first step towards tooth decay. So if you don’t brush your braces very thoroughly multiple times a day, you could be left with chalky white spots of demineralization or even little cavities on your teeth.
Invisible aligners are a very popular treatment for malocclusion, these days. This is because the aligners are:
Additionally, many clear aligners are available directly from manufacturers and sold online. When you purchase a series of clear aligners to correct your teeth occlusion, you’ll skip the visit to a clinic and receive your orthodontic trays right at your own home. This significantly cuts down on the expense of straightening your teeth.
Clear aligners are custom-molded to fit your teeth a little too snugly.
This way, they put pressure on your crooked teeth and move them. After your teeth respond to the tray and move as far as it pushes them, you’ll be ready for the next tray which moves your teeth a little farther.
By wearing your trays as directed, clear aligners could help you fix malocclusion in 3-12 months. This depends on the severity of your malocclusion, of course.
Clear aligners aren’t right for every case. They can’t correct malocclusion that’s caused by a jaw alignment problem, for example. But they can fix almost anything that braces can. If you’re interested in trying out clear aligners, then check out our list of the best invisible aligners on the market today.
To find out if clear aligners can correct your malocclusion, start by contacting one of the companies that sell them online. They will explain how you can get a consultation or send in an impression kit so that they can analyze your bite. If you qualify, they’ll help you move forward with your treatment. If not, they’ll recommend that you see a dentist to learn about other treatment options.
Fix Malocclusion in 4 Steps
In summary, here are the basic steps you can take to correct malocclusion:
- Visit your dentist or an orthodontist for a tooth alignment evaluation to find out exactly what kind of malocclusion you have and learn about your treatment options.
- If your teeth can be fixed with a clear aligner, you may opt to order a set of trays online instead of getting braces.
- Follow your care provider’s instructions exactly when it comes to wearing braces or a clear aligner or recovering from jaw surgery.
- Quit any habits that could be contributing to the malocclusion and/or fill in gaps in your smile with tooth replacements like an implant or dental bridge.
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