Malocclusions are such a common dental condition that it is believed most individuals experience one, to some degree, in their lifetime. A malocclusion is, simply put, a general misalignment of the teeth or an incorrect relationship between the upper (maxilla) and lower (mandible) arches.

It is thought that misalignment is caused by a combination of genetic factors and poor oral habits, or other factors in early childhood development. Treatment of malocclusion is performed by an orthodontist, a dental specialist primarily concerned with the correction of misalignment and facial irregularities.

What are the three main categories of malocclusion?

There are three categories that most malocclusions fall into. They are:

Class I

These are typical occlusions involving overcrowding, spacing, or problems with surrounding teeth.

Class II

These malocclusions are called overbites. They occur when the upper teeth protrude past the lower teeth, or the central teeth are fully covered by the lateral teeth.

Class III

These are called underbites, or prognathism, and occur when the lower teeth protrude further than the upper teeth. Underbites are usually caused by a jawbone that is too large or a maxillary bone that is too short.

Why should malocclusions be treated?

Orthodontists produce even, straight smiles for patients of all ages using orthodontic realignment procedures and devices. Results of orthodontic treatment leave the patient delighted with their new smile, and less likely to suffer from a variety of dangerous dental conditions.

The conditions caused by malocclusion include:

Higher risk of tooth decay

The constant uneven wear pattern on teeth caused by a malocclusion can lead to tooth erosion and decay.

Poor oral hygiene

Malocclusions make it harder to brush, floss, and generally care for the teeth and gums. Whether malocclusion has caused overcrowding or protruding teeth, patients agree that it is much easier to care for teeth that are properly aligned.

Higher risk of TMJ

Excessive pressure on the temporomandibular joint, facial pain, grinding teeth during sleep, and headaches are common symptoms of TMJ, temporomandibular jaw syndrome. It is thought that malocclusion can cause TMJ, while realigned teeth reduce pressure and eliminate TMJ symptoms.

How do orthodontists treat malocclusion?

Before an orthodontist can determine the best treatment option for their patient, they must first discover the root of their patient’s problem. Orthodontists will perform a thorough examination of the mouth and jaw, take panoramic X-rays, and make bite impressions of the whole mouth to better understand the patient’s condition.

If overcrowding is the patient’s main issue, a tooth extraction may be necessary to create the space needed for realignment. If the issue is an underbite, crossbite, or overbite, the orthodontist may choose to use a variety of dental appliances. These include:

  • Fixed multibracket braces – These are traditional braces made of brackets cemented to each tooth and an archwire that connects each bracket. The orthodontist will adjust or change the wire regularly throughout the treatment to gently train the teeth into alignment.
  • Removable devices – Headgear, palate expanders, non-fixed dental braces, and retainers are all commonly used for treating malocclusion. These are removable devices that work to hold the teeth in their correct position as the jawbone grows properly around them. These are often used after a traditional braces treatment.
  • Invisalign® – Like traditional dental braces, Invisalign® works to straighten and correct malocclusion. These dental aligners, however, are removable and nearly invisible.

If you have any questions about malocclusions, please contact Brooklyn Dentist.