Dental malocclusion is a common ailment in which the teeth are misaligned. Most malocclusion cases will require a visit to the orthodontist, who will treat the issue with dental devices such as braces. Finding and treating malocclusion as early as possible will prevent future dental problems such as tooth decay.
A malocclusion is a misalignment between the maxilla or upper jaw and the mandible or lower jaw. Most cases of malocclusion are genetic. External factors may also contribute to malocclusions, such as extended use of a pacifier or thumb sucking.
The symptoms of malocclusion may vary depending on which classification you are experiencing. Some malocclusion symptoms include trouble chewing properly, frequently biting the cheeks, lisping or breathing through the mouth.
Benefits of malocclusion treatment include a reduction in issues such as tooth decay caused by the uneven wear pattern from the misalignment of your teeth. Additionally, you can prevent other dental issues such as temporomandibular jaw syndrome (TMD) by realigning the teeth and reducing pressure on the joints in your jaw.
Many cases of malocclusion result from overcrowded teeth. Realigning your teeth will provide more space, making it easier to clean your teeth and improve your oral hygiene.
While it is normal for the upper teeth to overlap slightly with the lower teeth, issues with spacing or jaw size may cause this overlap to become more severe and lead to malocclusion. During a routine physical exam, a dentist may check your mouth for malocclusion by moving your cheek and having you bite down or performing an X-ray. If your dentist finds you have malocclusion, you may receive a referral to an orthodontist for further treatment.
There are three main classifications of malocclusion:
- Class I: This type of malocclusion is common and includes spacing issues with the other teeth.
- Class II: Class II malocclusion is also known as an overbite and occurs when the upper teeth rest further forward than the lower teeth.
- Class III: This classification encompasses the underbite, in which the lower teeth extend further forward than the upper teeth.
You may also experience an anterior crossbite in which the upper teeth rest inside the lower teeth. A posterior crossbite occurs when the back molars in the upper mandible rest behind the back molars in the lower jaw.
For mild cases, your dentist will treat malocclusion with various dental devices. One option for treatment is malocclusion braces that will gradually move the teeth into alignment. Other alternatives include a removable device such as a retainer or a palate expander for children with malocclusion. For an aesthetically pleasing solution, many offices such as Nicolas Orthodontics may suggest Invisalign, which works similarly to braces without impacting the aesthetics of your smile.
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