Malocclusion means "bad bite." It's when the upper and lower teeth are not meeting correctly, or when the teeth and jaws are not positioned for good dental health. This condition affects jaw growth, speech development, facial appearance, gum tissue health, and the ability to clean teeth properly.
Many malocclusions are inherited. This includes crowding of teeth, too much space between teeth, extra or missing teeth, or irregularities in the jaws, face, and teeth.
Malocclusions also can be environmental in nature, caused by accidents, thumb sucking or sucking on a pacifier, obstruction by tonsils and adenoids, dental disease, or premature loss of primary (baby) teeth.
If dental care is delayed or not taken, many problems get worse and more complicated (and expensive) to remedy. Malocclusion can cause excessive wear of tooth enamel, poor chewing, stress on both the gums and jawbone that support the teeth, chronic headaches, and facial and neck pains. Correcting the malocclusion can improve overall oral health and eliminate other potential problems.
Sometimes when permanent teeth are crowded and their spacing and proper positioning is being affected by the primary teeth, removing primary or baby teeth is necessary. Otherwise, the severely crowded permanent teeth will either remain "stuck" (impacted) and unable to erupt, or they will erupt in an undesirable position.
Treatment of a malocclusion involves a thorough evaluation of your child's specific condition by a pediatric dentist and/or orthodontist. This may include recommendations for removal of some primary or permanent teeth because some malocclusions cannot be treated successfully without doing so. Extraction of some teeth in severely crowded conditions enhances proper alignment, function, and appearance, too.
Each child's specific condition dictates the diagnostic procedures, but they often include several or all of the following:
Each condition is unique and must be treated individually. The actual time is dependent on the growth of the child's mouth and face, the severity of the problem and the cooperation of the child in following instructions. Mild correction problems or early treatment may take only a few months. Treatment for more complex malocclusions range from one to three years.
An attractive smile, proper alignment, and healthy teeth are valuable rewards gained from a custom-designed treatment program made for smile after smile!
by Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO