What Is Malocclusion? Causes,Types, Symptoms & Treatment


‘Malocclusion’ is the medical term for ‘crooked teeth’ or ‘poor bite’. When our set of teeth are abnormally aligned such that they interfere even with basic functions like eating, chewing, or even speaking, leading to oral health issues – we often need to get them cosmetically corrected by people with specialized knowledge and skills called ‘orthodontists’.


What Is Malocclusion?


Crooked teeth can also have a negative impact on self-esteem. They can easily become the breeding ground for bacterial growth and cavity because of a lack of oral hygiene. One needs to be extremely careful about his dental habits and resort to routine cleaning, brushing, and flossing in ways that not a single food particle remains stuck even in unreachable places. Bacteria multiples when food remains lodged in the mouth for long. Over time there is plaque build-up, which could lead to tooth decay and loss if pre-emptive measures are not taken to correct the malocclusion.

Causes Of Malocclusion:

  • Thumb-sucking
  • Use of pacifier 
  • Tooth loss
  • Trauma or injuries
  • Mouth tumors
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate
  • Bottle feeding
  • Lack of oral care
  • Impacted or ‘Wisdom’ Tooth

Types of Malocclusion:

  • Overcrowding – Teeth tend to grow on each other when they have too little space to grow inside the mouth. This results in the type of malocclusion called ‘overcrowding’.
  • Spacing – The eruption of permanent teeth can be adversely affected when there’s too much or too little space for the teeth to grow.
  • Open bite – When the front and lower anterior teeth slant outward such that they don’t touch when the mouth is closed.
  • Over jetting – Or ‘buck’teeth, is when the upper front teeth horizontally overlaps the lower front teeth. Over jetted teeth interfere with the functioning of chewing and speaking.
  • Overbite – Happens when the upper front teeth are slightly more protruding, and extend beyond the bottom front teeth. Severe overbites may result in tooth decay, jaw pain or gum disease.
  • Under bite – Conversely, an under bite is when the lower front teeth extend outward and beyond the upper front teeth.
  • Cross bite – Can happen in either or both the jaws where the upper teeth fit inside of lower teeth. This can affect the anterior teeth, the posterior teeth, or both.
  • Diastema – Refers to the gap or space between two adjacent teeth. It is usually noticed in the front teeth.
  • Impacted Tooth – Also called ‘wisdom’ tooth. When a tooth cannot naturally erupt from the gums, clinical procedure is required to extract or pull it out. The adjacent teeth may become twisted or tilted as the new teeth try to emerge. The eruption takes place much beyond the normal time. They remain embedded in the gum tissues for the longest time because of overcrowding of surrounding teeth.
  • Missing Tooth – Trauma, like external injury, or improper development of teeth will lead to missing tooth, also called ‘hypdontia’ – another type of malocclusion.

Symptoms of Malocclusion:

Malocclusion could range from mild, to moderate to severe. It is only when our teeth obstruct us from performing simple tasks that we should think of consulting an experienced orthodontist. The following are obvious signs of malocclusion that need correction:

  • Misalignment of teeth 
  • Discomfort felt when chewing or biting food
  • Lisping and speech problems
  • Frequent tongue and cheek biting
  • Difficulty experienced in mouth breathing
  • Change in facial structure

Treatment of Malocclusion:

Braces –
Retainers –

Braces – The old proven formulae of fixing crooked teeth with metal, ceramic or lingual braces, is the traditional treatment of malocclusion. Sometimes a tooth may be extracted from the gums by the orthodontist before braces are fitted. Braces correct jawline and align our teeth, thereby correcting our smile and bite. 

Retainers – Are more convenient and cosmetically appealing than braces. They are customized and removable devices that align crooked teeth.

Orthodontic solutions may take time but they treat all types of malocclusion. It is never too late to consider expert advice if your teeth have long been trouble. Malocclusion corrections successfully take place even advanced age.

You can also read about how to improve the oral health of kids

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Dr. John Augustine received his BA from Harvard College magna cum laude in 1987 and his Ph.D. and MD degrees from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1992 and 1993. He was then an intern and resident in Internal Medicine at the Yale-New Haven Hospital from 1993-1995. From 1995-1998, John was a clinical associate at the National Cancer Institute. He joined the faculty of the Duke University Medical Center in 2008 as Chief of Rheumatology at the Durham VA Hospital, a position he held until the end of 2017. He served as Chief of Rheumatology and Immunology at Duke from 2003-2008. He has conducted basic and translational research in the field of autoimmunity. He was focusing on the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and the immunological properties of nuclear macromolecules, including DNA. More recently, he has investigated the immune activities of HMGB1, a nuclear protein with alarmin activity, as well as microparticles. These studies have provided new insights into the translocation of atomic molecules during cell activation and cell death and the mechanisms by which cell death can influence innate immunity.


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