Malocclusion is the formal term for the misalignment of a person’s teeth. It is largely hereditary although there are some habits that can lead to worsening of the misalignment such as:
- Unusually shaped or positioned teeth
- Thumb sucking or prolonged use of a pacifier or bottle
- Jaw injuries severe enough to alter its alignment
- Improperly performed dental procedures
Malocclusion is broadly categorized into three classifications which can overlap. They are:
Class 1: A slight overbite. The upper teeth overlap the lower teeth but not to the extent seen in Class 2. This is the type of misalignment most often seen.
Class 2: In this situation, there is a severe overbite. The formal term is retrognathism (or retrognathia) indicating that the top teeth significantly overlap the lower teeth.
Class 3: malocclusions indicate a severe underbite. Formally known as prognathism, class 3 malocclusion is a condition where the lower teeth jut out well past the upper teeth.
Other less common malocclusions include cross-bite in which the upper teeth align either to the left or the right of perfect vertical alignment. Lastly, it is possible to see teeth rotate or actually grow into the incorrect location.
Another common issue is crowding or open spacing of teeth which causes upper teeth to not fit properly with their lower position neighbors.
Problems caused by malocclusion
- Improperly aligned teeth can cause many different types of issues including:
- Increased risk of tooth decay
- Improper tooth wear
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD, TMJ)
- Gum or periodontal problems
- Worsening of misalignment over time
As you might imagine, with this many types of misalignment, there are very few people who escape some kind of malocclusion. These minor problems are not severe enough to warrant any kind of corrective treatment. However, for those with severe problems, it is important to apply some kind of procedure that will end up getting the teeth in better alignment. This isn’t just a matter of looking good although there can be a dramatic difference in someone’s smile after their teeth are moved into the correct position. This is really a health issue. If ignored, other problems can and do crop up during the patient’s life regardless of how well they maintain their teeth with brushing and flossing.
Because many of these types of issues are discovered early in a person’s life and because attending to the problems early increases the ease of maintaining correct alignment post procedure, it falls on parents to decide whether to begin corrective treatment. At this point, many parents become concerned that they won’t be able to afford the necessary treatment. We here at the clinic want to emphasize that we are very good at creating a plan to treat your children that consider your finances.
Please call and at the very least get your child’s teeth looked at by someone who can make the correct suggestions for you. Don’t assume that if a problem is found, you will be unable to do anything about it. More importantly, knowing is better than not knowing. Even if you can’t get a corrective treatment underway right away, you will know that something needs to be done and can plan accordingly.
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