If your orthodontist has told you that you’ve got malocclusion that needs correction, you probably have some questions. Like, what exactly does that mean? What kind of treatment do you need? How long will it take?
Let’s take a dive into this common orthodontic issue, what causes malocclusion, how it’s treated and what you can expect in the months ahead. We at Orthodontist of Carson care about your oral health care and that means helping you better understand your needs.
What is Malocclusion?
Malocclusion is a misaligned bite from front to back. You’ll typically see signs of malocclusion via crooked teeth or poor bite. Your teeth are supposed to line up properly and evenly with each other. A poor bite, though, means that when you close your teeth the top or bottom juts out in front of the other.
For the most part, a minor malocclusion is a cosmetic issue and not a huge concern for your oral health. You can brush, floss and rinse properly and maintain proper health with regular dentist visits.
If, however, your teeth become overly crooked or the bite misaligns too much, that’s when potential problems arise. This is when your dentist or orthodontist will tell you that you need some treatment plan in place.
Additionally, if your teeth are crooked or overcrowded, they can become hard to keep clean, which ultimately could result in tooth decay or tooth loss. When malocclusion is severe it can also affect eating and speaking.
What are the Signs of Malocclusion?
Malocclusion may look like any of the following in your bite. The most obvious signs are crooked teeth or teeth that stick out. This could include buck teeth (overjet). Most typically malocclusion looks like any of these misaligned bites.
- Overbite – Your top front teeth significantly overlap your lower teeth.
- Underbite – Your lower teeth stick out over your upper teeth.
- Crossbite – Your top teeth fit behind the bottom teeth.
- Open bite – Your lower and upper teeth don’t meet when you close your teeth.
You may also notice:
- Frequently biting the inner cheek or tongue
- Changes in the appearance of your face
- Discomfort when biting or chewing
- Speech changes
- Development of a lisp
- Loss of the ability to breathe through your nose
What Causes Malocclusion?
There may be several causes of malocclusion. The most common is misshaped or too large or too small jaws or teeth. You might have too much room or too little room for your teeth, which results in extra space around your teeth or overcrowding.
Another common cause of malocclusion is sucking on a thumb, fingers or pacifier too late into development. Lost teeth may also cause malocclusion.
Additionally, in many cases, malocclusion is inherited from parents, which is why many parents who have needed braces have children who also need braces.
Sometimes, other conditions and situations may cause malocclusion, such as
- Cleft palate or cleft lip
- Prolonged bottle feeding into early childhood
- Injuries to the mouth, teeth or jaws
- Tumors in the mouth or jaw
- Impacted teeth
- Atypically shaped teeth
- Improperly fitted dental fillings, crowns or braces
- Airway obstructions such as allergies or enlarged adenoids or tonsils
Are There Any Health Risks of Malocclusion?
There may be some health risks from malocclusion, depending on certain circumstances, especially untreated malocclusion that is more severe.
Specifically, malocclusion in children may cause:
- Difficulty eating
- Difficulty speaking properly
- Jaw joint pain
- Tooth decay (from improper care)
- Mouth-breathing instead of nasal breathing
- Losing baby teeth too soon or too late
- Teeth grinding
Any of these problems can lead to further complications, as well, such as further damaged teeth, poor nutrition or loss of teeth.
How is Malocclusion Diagnosed?
When you visit your dentist, she or he will monitor your teeth, jaw, and gums with regular exams and x-rays. Once a child hits the age of two years, these visits should take place twice annually to keep on top of any potential malocclusions or other oral health care problems that arise.
During these visits, if any malocclusion should be treated, the dentist will diagnose the problem through the exams and x-rays, preferably sooner than later, which is why visits should be consistent from age two on. Additionally, your dentist may refer you to an orthodontist to deal with issues, especially malocclusion.
How is Malocclusion Treated?
Orthodontists treat malocclusion with specific appliances like braces and aligners, as well as with procedures. Some of these treatments can include:
- Clear aligners
- Removal of teeth in the case of overcrowding
- Surgery to correct severe jaw misalignments
Metal, porcelain or ceramic braces or clear aligners like Invisalign are some of the most commonly known treatments for malocclusion. They help to re-orient or straighten your teeth to the proper alignment, closing gaps, pulling teeth “together” for a proper bite and straightening teeth up.
Retainers may be used after braces or aligners or your dentist may prescribe them for less severe malocclusion cases.
Can You Prevent Malocclusion?
Preventing malocclusion is possible in some cases, but in many cases it is difficult. Most causes of malocclusion are hereditary or there may be environmental factors at play, changing or affecting your jaw and teeth growth.
The things you may be able to do to help prevent malocclusion include:
- Preventing children from sucking on pacifiers, fingers and thumbs once teeth begin to appear
- Limiting bottle use when appropriate for the child’s nutrition
- Early, regular dental visits to help ensure your dentist is monitoring your child’s jaw and teeth development
How Do I Maintain Dental Health to Help Prevent Worsening Malocclusion?
Whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with malocclusion, you should be sure to take proper care of your teeth and gums. There are several things you can do to maintain your oral health.
- Brush, floss and rinse with mouthwash two to three times per day (after meals).
- Thoroughly brush and floss your teeth, reaching your teeth and gums from all angles possible.
- Don’t skip spaces between your teeth, including the areas behind teeth at the back of the jawline.
- Wear proper mouth protection during sports, such as a mouth guard.
- Wear a mouth guard at night if you tend to grind your teeth.
- Use a water flosser if traditional flossing isn’t effective enough for you.
- Avoid misusing your teeth. In other words, don’t open packages with them.
- Skip the hard candy.
- Limit sugar intake, in sweets, fruit juices, and sodas.
- Maintain regular dentist visits, at least twice a year.
- Visit the dentist at the first sign of problems, rather than putting off the visit.
Think you or your child might have a malocclusion? Call us at Orthodontist of Carson at (424) 391-8941 today to schedule your consultation!