A malocclusion is an incorrect relationship between the maxilla (upper arch) and the mandible (lower arch), or a general misalignment of the teeth. Malocclusions are so common that most individuals experience one, to some degree.
The poor alignment of the teeth is usually a result of poor oral habits, or allergies to foods &/or the environment. When these issues are chronic they cause drainage & airway obstruction (ie: enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids) . With chronic airway obstruction, the tongue pushes forward trying to make room for more air. Since the tongue is such a strong muscle, it wins, resulting in teeth & jaws being pushed in the wrong direction.
In fact, because of his post-graduate training, Dr. Sparks can tell just by looking at the teeth & dental arches how the tongue has been improperly positioned throughout jaw development & tooth eruption.
The following are three main classifications of malocclusion:
Class I – The occlusion is typical, but there are spacing or overcrowding problems with the other teeth.
Class II – The malocclusion is an overbite (the upper teeth are positioned further forward than the lower teeth). This can be caused by the protrusion of anterior teeth or the overlapping of the central teeth by the lateral teeth.
Class III – Prognathism (also known as “underbite”) is a malocclusion caused by the lower teeth being positioned further forward than the upper teeth. An underbite usually occurs when the jawbone is large or the maxillary bone is short.
Reasons for treating a malocclusion
A severe malocclusion may lead to skeletal disharmony of the lower face. In a more extreme case, the orthodontist may work in combination with a maxillofacial dentist to reconstruct the jaw. It is never too late to seek treatment for a malocclusion. Children and adults alike have completed orthodontic realignment procedures and have been delighted with the resulting even, straight smile & comfortable bite.
Here are some of the main reasons to seek orthodontic treatment for a malocclusion:
Reduced risk of tooth decay – A malocclusion often causes an uneven wear pattern on the teeth. The constant wearing of the same teeth can lead to tooth erosion and decay.
- Reduced risk of periodontal (gum) disease- A malocclusion can cause severe pressure on adjacent teeth making them unstable. The jawbone or foundation around the teeth then starts to dissolve thus making the teeth more unstable & more likely to develop gum disease.
- Better oral hygiene – A malocclusion can be caused by overcrowding. When too many teeth are competing for too little space, it can be difficult to clean the teeth and gums effectively. It is much easier to clean straight teeth that are properly aligned.
Reduced risk of TMD – Temporomandibular jaw disorder (TMD) can be caused by a malocclusion. Headaches, facial pains and grinding teeth during sleep all result from the excessive pressure to the temporomandibular joint. Realigning the teeth reduces pressure, and can eliminate these symptoms.
How is a malocclusion treated?
A malocclusion is usually treated with dental braces and/or appliance therapy. Dr. Sparks orders a cephlametric & a panoramic x-ray of the patient. Photos and bite impressions of the whole mouth also need to be completed before deciding on the best course of treatment.
If you have any questions about malocclusions, please contact our office.