Don’t you wish you could have perfect teeth? You’ve seen smiling faces in magazines but, no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to make your smile like those models. Plus, you know you have a few crooked ones in there that are embarrassing. What you have is called a “malocclusion.” Here’s what you need to know about it and how to get your smile back.

What Is It?

A malocclusion is when the teeth are misaligned. According to Dr. Joseph Hung, these misalignments can take the form of overbites, underbites, open bites, crossbites, and crowded teeth.

A malocclusion used to be thought to originate as a genetic problem, but recent research suggests that it is actually environmental. Many adults don’t have enough space in their mouth to accommodate all of their teeth, so alignment problems happen.

Common Causes

Children may cause the problem, or exacerbate it by excessive thumb-sucking, tongue thrusting, pacifier use after age 3, or excessive use of a bottle for feeding.

There may be extra teeth trying to grow in, ill-fitted crowns and fillings, appliances, retainers, and braces.

There may also be a misalignment of the jaw or fractures after a severe injury or trauma. Tumors of the mouth and jaw also may cause malocclusions.

Symptoms

Malocclusions can have many symptoms including abnormal teeth alignment, abnormal appearance of the face, difficulty biting and chewing, speech difficulties, breathing through the mouth, and difficulty breathing while sleeping.

Most of the symptoms are not serious or life-threatening, but they can become serious over time and develop into chronic health problems.

Diagnosing It

A dentist can diagnose malocclusions if you’re willing to go in and get examined. Most problems with teeth alignment are discovered through routine visits. Your dentist will pull back your cheek and ask you to bite down. Then, he or she can examine your bite, and the possibility of a malocclusion.

If there is a problem, your dentist will refer you to an orthodontist for treatment.

You might need to have dental x-rays, head and skull x-rays, or facial examination.

Treatment Options

The treatment options for a malocclusion include dental appliances, including braces, reverse head or traction pullers, or implants to correct gaping or crowding.

In some cases, surgery is necessary, including removal of a tooth, or reshaping or lengthening or shortening the jaw.

Prognosis

Some problems with misaligned teeth are easier to treat than others. Treatment often works when it is done at an early age. But even adults can correct severe malocclusions. Depending on your age, and the severity of the misalignment, treatment may take between 6 months and 2 years or more. The time will depend entirely on how much work you need and the amount of correction required to fix the problem.

Some possible negative consequences of not correcting the malocclusion are tooth decay, extreme discomfort during treatment, irritation of the mouth, gums, and even gingivitis or the formation of periodontal disease, or chewing difficulty.

These complications may persist through the early stages of treatment.

Samantha Pearce has worked within the orthodontics field for 10 years. Now taking a step back from her career to raise her twin girls she shares her knowledge by blogging about orthodontics for health and parenting sites.

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One Comment

  1. Nina Chandler says:

    Very interesting & informative. Is malocclusion implicated in Migraine?

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