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Malocclusion and Orthodontics (cont.)


The most obvious sign of malocclusion is crooked or protruding teeth. Physical symptoms of malocclusion are uncommon but can range from mild to severe. Have your general or pediatric dentist evaluate whether a poor bite is causing:

  • Problems chewing food.
  • Problems with biting the cheek or roof of the mouth.
  • Slurring speech, trouble saying certain words, or other speech problems.
  • Pain in the facial muscles or jaw.
  • Permanent teeth coming in (erupting) at the wrong position.

Adult malocclusion symptoms will typically remain the same or get worse over the years. Symptoms in a child who has mild malocclusion may improve over time. Through the teen years, the jaw grows dramatically. This growth period may correct mild crowding of teeth or teeth shifting as a result of thumb-sucking.

What Happens

Teeth that are naturally perfectly alignedClick here to see an illustration. are rare. A poor fit and alignment of the teeth (malocclusionClick here to see an illustration.) can range from mild to severe. Mild malocclusion causes no medical or functional problems and little cosmetic concern. But severe malocclusion may cause difficulty with eating and speaking. Some people are embarrassed or self-conscious about crooked or protruding teeth.

Crowding is the most common type of malocclusion. In children, early crowding of permanent teeth can prevent new teeth from coming in properly or from erupting at all (impaction).

Some mild types of malocclusion may improve as a child's jaw grows and changes. But there are many conditions that don't improve without treatment. These usually involve the size or position of the jaw (such as an underbite or an unusually narrow lower jaw).

With or without orthodontic treatment, the teeth have a normal tendency to slowly drift toward the front of the jaw. This may lead to crowded lower front teeth (incisors).

A poor bite doesn't usually cause tooth decay, gum (periodontal) disease, or temporomandibular (TMD) disorder. But teeth that are aligned properly are easier to keep clean.

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