Font Size
A
A
A
1
...

Malocclusion and Orthodontics


Topic Overview

Illustration of a toothWhat is malocclusion?

Malocclusion means having crooked teeth or a "poor bite."

Orthodontic treatment can correct the way teeth and jaws line up. Dentists who are specially trained to correct malocclusion are called orthodontists. They use a variety of treatment tools and techniques (including bracesClick here to see an illustration.) to move teeth, and sometimes the jaw, into the right places.

What causes malocclusion?

A common cause of malocclusionClick here to see an illustration. is teeth that have too much or too little room in the jaw. If children have a small jaw, their teeth may grow into a space that is too small. As a result, teeth may grow or drift out of place.

Other causes of crooked teeth include thumb-sucking, pacifier use, and tooth loss.

What are the symptoms?

The most obvious sign is teeth that are crooked or stick out. Malocclusion can range from mild to severe. Most of the time, having crooked teeth is only a cosmetic problem, meaning people don't like the way their teeth look. But in severe cases, it can cause problems with eating or speaking.

How is malocclusion diagnosed?

A dentist usually checks for malocclusion in children during regular dental visits. If the jaw or teeth are out of line, the dentist may suggest a visit to an orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get a checkup with an orthodontist by age 7.

An orthodontist will:

  • Ask questions about your or your child's past health problems.
  • Check the mouth and teeth.
  • Take X-rays of the face and teeth.
  • Take photographs of the face and teeth.
  • Make a plaster model of the teeth.

Start your child's trips to the dentist at age 12 months. This will help your child get used to seeing a dentist. It will also catch any early problems. Keep up with regular dental checkups 2 times a year.

How is it treated?

In children and teens, the first step in treatment may be to take out certain teeth to make room for teeth that may still grow in.

The next step is to attach braces to teeth to straighten out the biteClick here to see an illustration.. In addition to straightening teeth, braces can help move a child's jaw into the right position.

Teeth tend to move forward as you age, even after treatment with braces. RetainersClick here to see an illustration. are devices you wear in your mouth to keep your teeth from moving. Some people need to use retainers for many years after treatment.

Adults can successfully straighten their teeth with braces. But the only way to straighten an adult's jaw is with surgery.

Braces and other types of orthodontic treatment cost a lot. Most insurance plans don't pay for them. Before you start treatment, make sure you know how much it will cost and how you will pay for it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about malocclusion:

Being diagnosed:

Getting orthodontic treatment:

Living with malocclusion:

1
...

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.





Medical Dictionary