When it comes to dental treatments and procedures, it can often be easy to become lost in a world of jargon and technical terms. And there’s nothing worse than being sat in the dentist chair whilst they talk about terms and procedures that you don’t understand – right? Malocclusion is one of the terms that frequently comes up when talking about braces – but what does it actually mean?
What does malocclusion mean?
The term malocclusion is comprised of the terms ‘occlusion’, which is another word for your bite, and ‘mal’, which is derived from the Latin root meaning ‘bad’. So, when you put them together, ‘malocclusion’ means a bad bite. In other words, your upper and lower teeth don’t line up properly.
What causes malocclusion?
More often than not, problems with your bite are caused by hereditary factors such as an abnormal relationship between the size of the teeth and the size of the jaw. There are a number of other factors that can cause a bad bite, however, including missing teeth or habits such as thumb sucking.
What are the classes of malocclusion?
There are a number of different classes of malocclusion, and you might hear your dentist talking about these classes whilst examining and treating your teeth. But what exactly do the different classes mean?
Class I – A class I malocclusion involves the crowding, spacing, or overlapping of the teeth. In this classification, the upper jaw is in a normal relationship with the lower jaw, meaning that neither of the jaws protrude.
Class II – Class II malocclusion occurs when the bottom jaw is in a more backward position than usual, creating the appearance that the top teeth are protruding over the lower teeth. This type of malocclusion is often referred to as ‘buck teeth’.
Class III – Class III malocclusion occurs when the lower jaw is in a more forward position than normal, causing the lower teeth to protrude out beyond the upper teeth. These tend to be the most difficult type of bite problems to correct.
What different types of bite problems are there?
There are a number of common types of bite problems, including:
Overbite – If you have an overbite, your lower front teeth are positioned too far behind the upper front teeth. This can result from a horizontal underdevelopment of the upper jaw or the underdevelopment of the lower jaw, or sometimes a combination of both.
Underbite – With an underbite, the lower front teeth are positioned in front of the upper front teeth. This can be caused by the horizontal underdevelopment of the upper jaw, the horizontal overdevelopment of the lower jaw, or a combination of both of these factors.
Crossbite – A crossbite occurs when the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth. Crossbites are typically caused by a narrow upper jaw or a mismatch between the jaw size and the position between the upper and the lower jaw. Sometimes, a crossbite can lead to the asymmetry of the low jaw, causing it to be abnormally leaning to one side when the teeth are closed together.
Openbite – An openbite occurs when the upper front teeth cannot meet, or overlap with, the lower front teeth, even when the back teeth are closed together. This can cause difficulties with eating and can give patients a long facial appearance.
If you suspect that you might have a malocclusion and would like to discuss the possible treatment options, you should contact your dentist for a consultation.