Unless you find yourself hanging around with orthodontists regularly, you probably haven’t heard the term “malocclusions” very often! This is actually the technical term we use for a misalignment of the teeth and bite, and it’s something we see and treat daily here at Zeifman Orthodontics. When mismatched teeth and jaws cause a patient to have a bad bite, it can result in a variety of orthodontic issues, including:
- crooked teeth
- crowded teeth
- protruding teeth
- problems with the gums
- temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ)
- sleep disorders
- cosmetic concerns
- impacted speech patterns
- difficulties with eating or chewing
Patients can experience a few different types of malocclusions. While some have no symptoms at all, others may be inconvenient and even painful in some cases. If you have any reason to suspect a malocclusion in yourself or your child, keep reading below to learn more about the most common kinds, the symptoms they can cause, and what the expert team here at Zeifman Orthodontics can do to treat them!
What are the three classes of malocclusions?
Class 1: This tends to be the most common type of malocclusion. It’s characterized by the upper teeth slightly overlapping the lower ones in what is an otherwise normal bite.
Class 2: With this malocclusion, the upper jaw and the upper teeth overlap the lower jaw and teeth in an overbite.
Class 3: With this class of malocclusion, the lower jaw and lower teeth overlap the upper jaw and the upper teeth in an underbite.
What are the different types of malocclusions?
While it’s not unusual to have a bit of an overlap of the lower front teeth, an increased overbite can cause problems like your front teeth biting down onto your gums, or your lower front teeth biting into the roof of your mouth.
Underbite (or anterior crossbite)
If you have lower front teeth that are positioned much further forward than the upper front teeth, it will result in an underbite. This may also be referred to as an anterior crossbite.
A crossbite occurs when your upper teeth bite inside your lower teeth. It can happen on one or both sides of your jaw, and can affect your front or back teeth as well.
Overcrowding is an extremely common orthodontic condition. In fact, it’s often the biggest reason for adults seeking orthodontic treatment! Overcrowding is generally due to a lack of space, resulting in teeth that are crooked and overlap.
Some of the most frequent causes for this particular malocclusion include missing teeth, small teeth, tongue thrusting, and prolonged thumb sucking. Spacing issues can occur between two or more teeth, and may lead to crowding which can impact the eruption of the permanent teeth.
With an open bite, the front teeth do not overlap the lower teeth. If it’s the upper and lower front teeth that don’t overlap, it results in an opening that leads straight into the mouth. An open bite that affects the front teeth is known as an anterior open bite, but this problem can also occur on the sides of the mouth.
An overjet causes the top teeth to extend past the bottom teeth horizontally. This protrusion can often interfere with chewing food and speaking properly.
More commonly known as “gap teeth”, this is another term for the space that exists between two adjacent teeth. It’s seen most often with the front two teeth.
When a tooth is impacted, it’s unable to erupt through the surface of the gum naturally. Treatment may include extraction or exposing it so that a brace can be fitted to the surface.
Also known as hypodontia, this condition can occur as a result of trauma or from something as simple as the improper development of the teeth.
What causes most malocclusions?
Most malocclusions are due to genetics or inherited conditions. However, they can also occur as a result of certain conditions or habits. In cases like this, it’s important to correct the condition or habit, since they can lead to changes in the shape and structure of the jaw if left untreated over time. Some common causes for malocclusions include:
- early tooth loss
- loss of a permanent tooth
- prolonged use of a pacifier
- prolonged thumb or finger sucking
- cleft lip and palate
- injuries and trauma
- tumors in the mouth or jaw
- bottle feeding
- impacted tooth
- lack of oral care
- an airway that has been obstructed by enlarged adenoids or allergies
What are some of the symptoms of malocclusions?
As we mentioned above, the symptoms associated with malocclusions can be nonexistent. They can also be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the type of malocclusion present. In general, patients with noticeable symptoms may experience:
- misaligned teeth
- discomfort when biting or chewing food
- speech problems
- difficulty breathing through the mouth
- frequent biting of the tongue or cheeks
- changes in the overall structure of the face
Most dentists will check for malocclusions during check-ups, particularly when dealing with younger patients. This means that even symptomless malocclusions can be caught with the proper dental care! If a dentist notices misaligned teeth or a distorted jaw, they may refer you or your child to an orthodontist like Dr. Zeifman. She will be able to examine your mouth and teeth, take photos and x-rays of your teeth and face, and will take a look at your past dental and medical history to identify any oral issues that require treatment.
In the same way that regular visits with your dentist can help identify any dental problems before they become more serious, early orthodontic evaluations can find and treat orthodontic issues before they become more severe. This is one reason why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of seven. Dental check-ups should begin around the time of a baby’s first birthday.
How are malocclusions treated?
Not every malocclusion will require treatment, especially if it is minor enough that no symptoms are present. However, moderate to severe malocclusions in any class will often require corrective treatment with orthodontics to ensure a healthier, straighter smile that works the way it’s supposed to!
Normally, this treatment will include braces or aligners, but it may also require tooth removal, retainers or oral splints, and surgery. While surgery is fairly rare, the other treatment options are very common and can be administered on their own or simultaneously. Experienced orthodontists like Dr. Zeifman will look at the specifics of each case and the desired outcome before deciding on a personalized treatment plan for the patient.
Successful treatment of a malocclusion goes beyond achieving a proper bite and beautiful smile! Teeth that aren’t crooked or crowded are easier to brush and floss, which reduces the risk of cavities and tooth decay. This leads to an improvement in oral health overall. Treatment can also limit any strain placed on the teeth and jaw, lowering the potential of broken or chipped teeth. Additionally, many patients find that orthodontic treatment helps to ease or eliminate any existing TMJ symptoms!
Get the smile you deserve with Zeifman Orthodontics
Do you have a child who’s ready for their first orthodontic exam? Or perhaps you suspect that you may have a malocclusion yourself? Either way, our expert team would love to take a look and make sure everything is aligned the way it should be!
Here at Zeifman Orthodontics, we’re committed to providing high-quality orthodontic care to patients of all ages in Florham Park and the surrounding communities. That begins with the very first appointment! Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation and let’s get started on creating the beautiful smile you deserve.