Hello! I’m Andrea Patterson, DDS, of TruCare Dental in Albuquerque. I have been practicing quality general and been a cosmetic dentist since 2008. Today’s post focuses on malocclusion, or bad bite.
Do You Know What Malocclusion is?
Occlusion refers to the alignment of teeth and the way that the upper and lower teeth fit together (bite). The upper teeth should fit slightly over the lower teeth. The points of the molars should fit the grooves of the opposite molar.
Malocclusion means having crooked teeth or a “poor bite.” Bite refers to the way the upper and lower teeth line up. In a normal bite, the upper teeth sit slightly forward of the lower teeth. Very few people have a perfect bite.
Most of the time, malocclusion is a cosmetic problem, which means that people don’t like the way their teeth look. But it can also have a serious impact on self-esteem. Plus, crooked teeth can be hard to take care of, which may lead to tooth decay or tooth loss. When malocclusion is severe, it can even cause problems with eating or speaking.
Orthodontic treatment can correct the way teeth and jaws line up, and that may help a person feel better about his or her appearance. Dentists who are specially trained to correct malocclusion are called orthodontists. They use a variety of tools and techniques to move teeth, and sometimes the jaw, into the right position.
- Upper protrusion (overjet). In an upper protrusion, the upper front teeth are pushed outward (buck teeth). A small lower jaw may be the cause. Pacifier use or thumb-sucking can also create this condition by pushing the teeth outward, sometimes causing the roof of the mouth to change shape (upper palate).
- Spacing or crowding problems. Too much or too little room for the teeth can cause spacing or crowding problems. Crowding can prevent permanent teeth from coming in properly or at all (impaction).
- Misplaced midline. In people who have a misplaced midline, the front center line between the upper front teeth doesn’t match up with the center line of the lower front teeth.
- Open bite. Although the molars fit together in a person who has an open bite, the upper and lower front teeth don’t overlap. This creates an opening straight into the mouth. An open bite can also be present on one or both sides of the mouth.
- Overbite. In a person who has an excessive overbite, the upper front teeth reach too far down over the lower front teeth and, in severe cases, can cause the lower teeth to bite into the roof of the mouth.
Do You Know The Causes of Malocclusion?
Malocclusion is usually caused by problems with the shape or size of the jaw or teeth. A common cause is having too much or too little room in the jaw. If a child’s jaw is small, the teeth may grow in crowded or crooked. If there’s too much space in the jaw, the teeth may drift out of place.
Other causes include:
- Childhood habits such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, pacifier use beyond age 3, and prolonged use of a bottle
- Extra teeth, lost teeth, impacted teeth, or abnormally shaped teeth
- Ill-fitting dental fillings, crowns, dental appliances, retainers, or braces
- Misalignment of jaw fractures after a severe injury
- Tumors of the mouth and jaw
Other causes of malocclusion include thumb-sucking, pacifier use, and tooth loss. Long-term mouth breathing seems to be linked to malocclusion too, but how isn’t exactly clear.
What are the Symptoms?
The most obvious sign is teeth that are crooked or stick out. But there are many different types of malocclusion. For example, some people have buck teeth (called an overjet). This means that the upper front teeth are pushed outward. Some people have an underbite. Their lower front teeth sit farther forward than their upper front teeth.
The domino effect of these troubles can get pretty serious. For example, chewing difficulty can trigger ulcers and gum disease increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. Consider also how these problems can impact a patient’s emotional well-being and ability to perform their job.
Putting health issues aside, these problems can get pretty expensive to treat.
There are several effective treatments for malocclusion, but first you need a diagnosis. If you suspect that you have a misaligned bite, I hope this post has given you some good reasons to meet with Dr. Andrea Patterson. Call (505) 369-0074 to schedule a consultation and exam, or for any of your cosmetic dental options.