Malocclusion and Orthodontics - Topic Overview
What is malocclusion?
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.
What causes 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 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.