What is malocclusion?

Malocclusion literally means bad bite.It occurs when there is a problem in the alignment between the upper jaw (maxilla) and the lower jaw (mandible). Malocclusion can be observed in children or adults with crooked, crowded, or protruding teeth.

People suffering from malocclusion may develop the following problems:

  • Impaired mouth functions
  • Difficulty in cleaning the teeth
  • Tendency to develop cavities
  • Affect a person's appearance and speech
  • Severe cases will also affect the ability to eat

How do I get this condition?

Any of the following conditions may result in malocclusion:

  • Inherited from parents
  • Thumb-sucking or pacifier use
  • Premature loss of teeth
  • Trauma
  • Baby teeth that stay in the mouth too long
  • Improper fit of dental fillings or orthodontic appliances
  • Mouth-breathing

How would I know if I have malocclusion?

Malocclusion may cause no symptoms, or any of the following:

  • Crooked, crowded, or protruding teeth
  • Pain
  • Signs of wear on the teeth
  • Tooth decay
  • Difficulty in chewing

Why should I get treated for malocclusion?

Most cases of malocclusion may not need any treatment at all. However, for those moderate to severe cases, treatment will result to:

  • reduce risk of tooth decay
  • relieve excessive pressure on the temporomandibular joint.
  • aesthetic reasons.

How is malocclusion diagnosed?

Malocclusion is routinely found during a routine dental examination. The dentist may observe your child during a normal bite. Photographs and X-rays of the face and mouth may be taken for further evaluation. Additionally, plaster or plastic models of the patient's teeth from bite impressions may be used, especially in planning treatment.

Do I need to see an orthodontist?

Yes, orthodontic treatment is the most effective way to treat malocclusion without surgery. An orthodontist will usually use braces to manage malocclusion. In fact, braces are the most commonly used orthodontic appliances in the treatment of malocclusion. However, your orthodontist may also use alternatives to braces.

Will I get fully cured?

Most patients who get treatment will expect correction of the condition to take two or more years. Braces are worn for 18 to 24 months and a retainer is worn for another year.

Any way I could prevent this problem?

Generally, malocclusion is not preventable. However, it can be minimized by teaching children to control their habits, including thumb-sucking. Also, regular check-ups with dentists will allow problems to be caught early. This allows earlier management of dental and facial problems that otherwise would develop into malocclusion.