Teeth can’t perform the vital functions they’re designed for if they are misaligned.
What does that mean for a child or adult?
- It may mean that crowded teeth or an overbite or underbite, make it difficult to chew food properly, create a need to breathe through the mouth instead of the nose, have altered the appearance of the face and may even result in speech problems.
Occlusion is the term used to refer to tooth alignment. Ideally, teeth should fit easily within the mouth without crowding or spacing issues. You may have heard of it as your “bite.”
Malocclusion, the term for misalignment of the teeth, is the imperfect positioning of the teeth when the jaw is closed.
Alignment of the upper teeth is needed to prevent the lips and cheeks from being bitten; alignment of the lower teeth is needed to protect the tongue from being bitten.
Malocclusion of the teeth is a misalignment problem but it can also lead to serious oral health complications.
Malocclusions are usually inherited.
But there are some habits or conditions that may change the structure and shape of the jaw, such as:
- Pacifier use after the age of three
- Cleft lip and palate
- Abnormally shaped or missing teeth
- Injury to the jaw
- Thumb sucking into early childhood
- Prolonged use of bottle feeding
Most mild malocclusions will not require treatment. However, severe malocclusion should be treated to prevent progression to TMJ (Temporomandibular Jaw) disorders.
Malocclusions can be treated with oral surgery in combination with orthodontic treatments.
Teeth may be removed to correct overcrowding, the jaw may be reshaped or shortened, with wires placed to stabilize the jaw bone. Patients may then be fitted with braces to aid in achieving the perfect “bite.”
Because most cases of malocclusion are hereditary, prevention is difficult. Early detection is key in determining the type of and length of treatment; the earlier the treatment, the better the outcome. Adult treatment may take more time and be more expensive.