Malocclusion is the technical term for a misalignment of the teeth and bite, which we see and correct daily here at Dietrich Orthodontics. Malocclusions happen when mismatched teeth and jaws cause you to have a bad bite. If left untreated, they can result in a whole laundry list of oral issues, including things like:
- crooked and crowded teeth
- protruding teeth
- gum problems
- cosmetic appearance
- difficulties with eating or chewing
There are several types of malocclusions, and while some may be symptomless, others can be inconvenient and painful. If you suspect a malocclusion in yourself or your child, read up on the most common types, the symptoms they can cause, and what Dr. Dietrich and his expert team can do to treat them.
The three main classes of bites:
Class 1: This is where the jaw is in harmony. The upper jaw is in the right position with the lower jaw a bit further back, creating a harmonious bite. There may be crowding or spacing or alignment issues when a jaw is in Class 1, but the jaw itself is in the correct location.
Class 2: This is when your upper jaw is too far forward and your lower jaw is too far back (commonly referred to as overbite or overjet).
Class 3: This class consists of an underbite, which occurs when the upper jaw is too far back and the lower jaw is too far forward.
The different types of malocclusion
Overcrowding is one of the most common orthodontic issues and is the primary reason most people seek orthodontic treatment. Overcrowding is often due to a lack of space, which can result in teeth that are crooked and overlap.
Spacing issues can occur between two or more teeth. Some of the most common causes for this malocclusion are missing teeth, small teeth, and thumb sucking.
The front teeth do not overlap the lower teeth with an open bite. An open bite that affects the front teeth is known as an anterior open bite, but this problem can also occur on the sides of the mouth. An open bite can also be caused by thumb sucking.
While some overjet is good, excessive overjet causes the top teeth to extend past the bottom teeth too far horizontally. This protrusion can interfere with chewing food and speaking properly.
Having some overlap of the lower front teeth is normal, but an increased overbite can cause your front teeth to bite down onto your gums or your lower front teeth to bite into the roof of your mouth. Additionally, this will lead to significant wear on lower teeth.
Underbite (or anterior crossbite)
If the lower front teeth are much further forward than the upper front teeth, it results in an underbite, also known as an anterior crossbite. This can also negatively affect the lower gum tissue leading to needing gum grafting in the future.
A crossbite occurs when your upper teeth bite inside your lower teeth. This can happen on one or both sides of your jaw and affect your front or back teeth. A crossbite can also cause a shift which can lead to asymmetrical lower jaw growth, which is why a crossbite may need early intervention, starting at age 7.
Also known as “gap teeth,” this is another term for the space between two adjacent teeth, usually the front two teeth.
An impacted tooth is unable to erupt through the gum naturally. Treatment can include extraction or exposing it so a brace can be fitted to the surface. If detected early, an exposure or impaction can be avoidable by simply extracting the neighboring baby teeth.
This condition can occur as a result of trauma or from something as simple as the improper development of the teeth.
The most common causes of malocclusions
Although most malocclusions result from inherited conditions, they can also occur due to certain conditions or habits. If these conditions or habits are allowed to continue without treatment, they can lead to changes in the shape and structure of the jaw. These include irregular growth with the malocclusions listed above, tooth trauma, thumb sucking, poor oral hygiene and more.
Some symptoms of malocclusions
The symptoms of malocclusions can range from nonexistent to severe, depending on the issues present. Some of the more common symptoms include:
- misaligned teeth
- discomfort with biting or chewing food
- speech problems
- difficulty breathing through the mouth
- frequent biting of the tongue or cheeks
- changes in the overall structure of the face
Your general dentist will check for malocclusions during check-ups, so even symptomless malocclusions can be caught with the proper dental care.
Suppose the teeth appear to be misaligned or the jaw seems distorted. In that case, your dentist should refer you to an orthodontist like Dr. Dietrich, who will examine your teeth and mouth, take X-rays of your teeth and face, and go over your medical history to identify any oral issues.
Just like regular dental visits can help catch dental problems before they get worse, early and regular orthodontic evaluations can help find potential orthodontic issues so you can start treatment before problems become more serious.
Your child should have their first dental check-up around their first birthday. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child have their first orthodontic evaluation by age seven.
It may not always be necessary to initiate corrective treatment for malocclusion, particularly if they are minor enough that there are no symptoms. However, when there is a moderate to severe malocclusion in any class, corrective orthodontic treatment is often the best course of action to ensure an aligned smile that is also fully functional.
At Dietrich Orthodontics, we use traditional metal and clear braces to correct malocclusions in our offices in Canton and Alliance. Braces apply constant gentle force to guide your teeth into the best positions. Dr. Dietrich takes the time to get to know you and customizes your treatment based on your unique needs and goals.
Successfully treating a troublesome malocclusion has many benefits beyond achieving a proper bite and attractive smile. Teeth will often be easier to brush and floss, reducing the risk of cavities and tooth decay and improving oral health overall. It also ensures the teeth will not wear down more than they should.
Make malocclusion a thing of the past with Dietrich Orthodontics
If you have a child ready for their first orthodontic exam or suspect you may have a malocclusion yourself, our team would love to take a look and ensure everything is lining up as it should!
Dr. Dietrich provides high-quality, personalized, affordable orthodontic care for families in Canton, Alliance, and surrounding communities. We work hard to provide only the best orthodontic experience for you and your family from start to finish, so get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation. Now is the perfect time to take the first steps toward a beautiful, healthy smile!