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Malocclusion and Orthodontics - Topic Overview

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Malocclusion means having crooked teeth or a "poor bite."

Orthodontic treatment can correct the way teeth and jaws line up. Dentists who are specially trained to correct malocclusion are called orthodontists. They use a variety of treatment tools and techniques (including braces camera.gif) to move teeth, and sometimes the jaw, into the right places.

A common cause of malocclusion camera.gif is teeth that have too much or too little room in the jaw. If children have a small jaw, their teeth may grow into a space that is too small. As a result, teeth may grow or drift out of place.

Other causes of crooked teeth include thumb-sucking, pacifier use, and tooth loss.

The most obvious sign is teeth that are crooked or stick out. Malocclusion can range from mild to severe. Most of the time, having crooked teeth is only a cosmetic problem, meaning people don't like the way their teeth look. But in severe cases, it can cause problems with eating or speaking.

A dentist usually checks for malocclusion in children during regular dental visits. If the jaw or teeth are out of line, the dentist may suggest a visit to an orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get a checkup with an orthodontist by age 7.

An orthodontist will:

  • Ask questions about your or your child's past health problems.
  • Check the mouth and teeth.
  • Take X-rays of the face and teeth.
  • Take photographs of the face and teeth.
  • Make a plaster model of the teeth.

Start your child's trips to the dentist at age 12 months. This will help your child get used to seeing a dentist. It will also catch any early problems. Keep up with regular dental checkups 2 times a year.

In children and teens, the first step in treatment may be to take out certain teeth to make room for teeth that may still grow in.

The next step is to attach braces to teeth to straighten out the bite camera.gif. In addition to straightening teeth, braces can help move a child's jaw into the right position.

Teeth tend to move forward as you age, even after treatment with braces. Retainers camera.gif are devices you wear in your mouth to keep your teeth from moving. Some people need to use retainers for many years after treatment.

Adults can successfully straighten their teeth with braces. But the only way to straighten an adult's jaw is with surgery.

Braces and other types of orthodontic treatment cost a lot. Most insurance plans don't pay for them. Before you start treatment, make sure you know how much it will cost and how you will pay for it.

Learning about malocclusion:

Being diagnosed:

Getting orthodontic treatment:

Living with malocclusion:

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 02, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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