What Is Malocclusion of the Teeth and How Is It Treated?

What Is Malocclusion of the Teeth and How Is It Treated?
Smiles On Hickman

Smiles On Hickman


Malocclusion means improper positioning of the teeth that can lead to oral health complications. It is also known as:

  • Open bite
  • Crowded teeth
  • Underbite
  • Crossbite
  • Overbite 

Misaligned teeth may lead to difficulties in performing vital functions such as chewing, speaking, and biting. The term occlusion refers to your teeth’s alignment. Your teeth should fit within your mouth without being rotated, twisted, or having crowding or spacing issues. The upper jaw teeth should land slightly over the lower jaw teeth so that each molar will fit correctly in the grooves of its opposite molar. 

Deviations from ideal occlusion are referred to as malocclusion. All types of misalignment can impact your dental health. Your upper and lower jaw teeth should be aligned properly to prevent cheeks, lips, and tongue from being bitten.

Causes of Malocclusion 

Malocclusion is an inherited condition. However, some habits or situations may change teeth’s alignment, including:

  • Thumb sucking in early childhood
  • Abnormally shaped or impacted teeth
  • Cleft lip and palate 
  • Tumors in the jaw or mouth
  • Poor-fitting dental fillings, braces, or crowns 
  • Airway obstruction caused by allergies or enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Frequent use of pacifier beyond age three
  • Prolonged bottle feeding in early childhood
  • Misalignment of the jaw caused by injuries

Symptoms of Malocclusion 

The symptoms may vary depending on the type of malocclusion. However, common symptoms include:

  • Speech problems, including lisp development 
  • Misalignment of the teeth
  • Discomfort when biting or chewing 
  • The tongue and inner cheeks being bitten frequently.
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Changes in facial appearance

Diagnosing and Classifying Malocclusions

Malocclusions are usually diagnosed in regular dental exams. Your dentist will examine your teeth and take X-rays to determine whether your teeth are properly aligned. Generally, malocclusion is classified by its type and severity. These include:

Class 1

It is the common type of malocclusion that occurs when the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth. You will experience normal bite and slight overlap in class 1 malocclusion.

Class 2 

Class 2 malocclusion, also known as retrognathism, occurs when the upper teeth and jaw significantly overlap the lower teeth and jaw, causing a severe overbite problem.

Class 3

Class 3 malocclusion is also termed as prognathism. It occurs when the lower jaw protrudes forward and results in the lower teeth to overlap the upper teeth and jaw. It causes a severe underbite issue. 

How Is Malocclusion Treated?

Mild malocclusion does not require any treatment. However, if you suffer from severe malocclusion, your dentist can refer you to an orthodontist. Your orthodontist may recommend various treatments depending on the type of malocclusion, including:

  • Braces to correct the teeth alignment 
  • Plates or wires to make the jaw bone stable and balanced
  • Reshaping, capping, or bonding of the teeth
  • Surgery to reshape or shorten the jaw
  • Teeth removal to correct overcrowding 

Treatment may cause a few complications, including:

  • Difficulty speaking or chewing during treatment. 
  • Tooth decay
  • Mouth irritation caused by dental appliances such as braces
  • Pain or discomfort 

How to Prevent Malocclusion?

Preventing hereditary malocclusion is difficult. Parents of young kids should limit bottle-feeding and pacifier use to help reduce changes in jaw development. Early diagnosis may lessen the severity and length of the treatment needed to correct the problem. Therefore, take your child to the dentist during childhood to determine whether their teeth are correctly aligned. Adults can also get treated for their malocclusion with good results, but the process might be lengthier and more expensive in such cases. 

Whether inherited or self-induced, you should be aware of malocclusion and its treatment options. To learn more about malocclusion, schedule an appointment with our dentist in West Des Moines

Smiles On Hickman

Smiles On Hickman

Smiles on Hickman is a family dental practice located in Des Moines, IA. We are committed to providing the best, personalized dental care solutions to patients and their families. Our well-trained and experienced team of dentist in Des Moines,IA ensures that our patients feel comfortable during their visit with us. We use advanced dental techniques that enable us to provide quality care in the fields of cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, sedation dentistry, oral surgery, and more. We strive to form long-lasting bonds with all our patients and offer them a lifetime of healthy smiles.