Occlusion is a term that is used to refer to the alignment of your teeth while malocclusion refers to misaligned teeth.
Ideally, your teeth should fit easily within your mouth without any crowding or spacing issues. Also, none of your teeth should be rotated or twisted. The teeth of your upper jaw should slightly overlap the teeth of your lower jaw so that the pointed ridges of your molars fit into the groves of the opposite molar.
Deviations from ideal occlusion are known as malocclusion. The type of deviation varies, but any type of misalignment can cause issues. Alignment of upper teeth is needed to prevent the cheeks and lips from being bitten, while alignment of lower teeth is needed to protect the tongue from being bitten.
The teeth won’t be able to perform vital functions if they’re misaligned.
Learn more about this issue and how it may be treated, to protect your overall oral and digestive health.
What Causes Misaligned Teeth?
Malocclusion is often inherited. Other causes include the following:
- Abnormally shaped or impacted teeth
- Misaligned or malformed jaw
- Cleft lip and palate
- Prolonged use of a pacifier or feeding bottle in childhood
- Thumb sucking, sucking finger or lower lip, tongue thrusting in childhood
- Breathing through the mouth in childhood
- Injuries that result in the misalignment of the jawImproper dental restorative procedures in childhood
- Gingivitis (gum disease)
- Early loss of milk teeth
“A misaligned or malformed jaw can also cause a misaligned bite. They can occur in any or all three dimensions. Generally it can express as protruding jaws, a lower jaw slanted to one side or an open bite.”
What Are the Symptoms Of A Malocclusion?
The impact is not only physical but emotional. A misaligned jaw causes interference with eating, breathing, sleeping, speaking, and even causes discomfort while the jaw is resting.
Problems vary from person to person depending on the scale of misalignment. However, dentists and experts in the field have identified three main issues that are faced by most individuals with the condition. These are as follows:
1. Difficulty in Chewing
Unfortunately, a misaligned jaw causes the upper and lower jaw to crash into each other, resulting in pain and discomfort when chewing.
2. Abnormal Breathing
A misaligned jaw may force someone to breathe through their mouth, which can cause other health issues.
3. Abnormal Appearance
A misaligned jaw shapes your facial structure. Children who have been using pacifiers for along time, or sucking their thumb, may develop a misaligned jaw in their early years. Not only is your outer appearance is affected, but it can also make you feel really self conscious.
Diagnosing and Classifying Malocclusion
Malocclusion of teeth is typically diagnosed through routine dental exams. Your dentist Dr. Nishita Gandhi DDS, Bronx will examine your teeth and may perform dental X-rays to determine if your teeth are properly aligned. If malocclusion is detected, it will be classified by its type and severity.
There are three major classes of malocclusion:
- Class 1 : Class 1 malocclusion is diagnosed when the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth. In this type of malocclusion, the bite is normal and the overlap is slight. Class 1 malocclusion is the most common classification of malocclusion.
- Class 2 : Class 2 malocclusion is diagnosed when a severe overbite is present. This condition, known as retrognathism (or retrognathia), means that the upper teeth and jaw significantly overlap the lower jaw and teeth.
- Class 3 : Class 3 malocclusion is also diagnosed when there’s a severe underbite. This condition, known as prognathism, means that the lower jaw protrudes forward. This causes the lower teeth to overlap the upper teeth and jaw.
How Can Misaligned Teeth Be Treated?
The treatment of misaligned teeth during childhood is most effective as it can prevent alignment issues that can be very difficult and expensive to resolve in the future. Children who are at least seven years old may be treated with the correct dental appliance to straighten their teeth.
The type of treatment you receive will depend heavily on the type of misaligned teeth you have. Cases in which the misalignment of the teeth is very slight may not require treatment. Mild cases of misaligned teeth may require the use of dentures, crowns, veneers or bridges to improve the alignment of your teeth and jaw. However, for most cases, especially those in which the misalignment is severe, you may be treated with braces.
Each of the various types of braces is used to correct a particular misalignment issue. The type of braces your orthodontist may recommend will depend on your unique teeth and personal needs:
- Invisalign : These types of braces are best used for mild cases of misaligned teeth. With their clear color, they are almost unnoticeable. They are removable and can be more costly than other types of braces.
- Fixed Braces : These can be made from metal or ceramic. A bracket is attached to the front of each affected front tooth in the upper and lower jaws and is linked together using orthodontic wires. Metal braces are less expensive and more effective than ceramic braces. However, ceramic braces tend to look more natural.
- Lingual Braces : These are fixed metal braces that are used to treatment misalignment of the back teeth. They may be more suitable for adults and can be a challenge to keep clean.
Cases of misaligned teeth are treatable for both children and adults. Speak with your dentist to determine which treatment options are most suitable for you.
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