Malocclusion is a term that is used to describe a person’s teeth that do not fit properly together when the mouth is closed. In fact, many people experience malocclusion to one degree or another. It has been estimated that only around a third of the world’s population has perfect occlusion – where there is a perfect alignment of the two sets of teeth.
How the teeth should be aligned
Ideally, the upper set of teeth, on what is called the maxilla – the upper jawbone, should fit just overlapping the lower set of teeth on the lower jawbone, or mandible. The overlap should only be slight otherwise there is a possibility of damaging the cheeks or lips when the person clamps their teeth together. This is known as overbite.
The opposite, rarer situation is when the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth – underbite.
Not only should the upper teeth fit over the lower teeth, but all the teeth of both sets should be able to fit over each other neatly without damaging each other. The molar teeth should fit on top of each other, so that the hollows in the lower molars form a space for the pointed parts of the upper molars.
Types of malocclusion
Mild malocclusion is not a real problem, but your dentist should be able to determine whether the degree of misalignment caused by overbite, underbite, crossbite or crooked teeth needs treatment.
Malocclusion is usually an inherited condition, so that if your parents and grandparents had pronounced misaligned teeth, it is more likely that you will have the same type of condition. Some malocclusion can happen because of the effect of impacted teeth (teeth that have failed to emerge) as well as tumours in the mouth, a cleft palate or from an accident which has jarred or dislodged one or more of the teeth.
Treatment for malocclusion
Treatment for malocclusion is easiest when a person is young and the teeth are still growing. Regular visits to your Oakville, Ontario dentist will allow an overview of the direction in which the teeth are growing and the use of x-rays will determine whether orthodontic treatment is required. An orthodontist is able to devise a suitable device for aligning the teeth in a more comfortable direction, with the help of braces, bridges, aligners or other devices.
In the past, adults were less likely to seek orthodontic treatment, but these days, it is much more common, even though the treatment is a little more difficult, lengthier and more expensive.
Treatment for malocclusion helps to relieve pain when a person bites and may prevent problems with the temporomandibular joint (the TMJ) as well as improve the appearance of the teeth when the person opens their mouth.