Malocclusion is a term that refers to any abnormal alignment of the teeth. Nearly 90 percent of children have some degree of malocclusion, although, typically, only a small percentage of these cases is severe enough to require treatment. Types of malocclusion include the following:
- Crooked teeth
These conditions involve problems with the way the upper and lower teeth fit together, and can lead to excessive stress on the teeth that may gradually loosen or crack them.
Causes of Malocclusion
Many cases of malocclusion are caused by a too-small jaw, which forces teeth to grow into a space that cannot contain them, or by a too-big jaw, which may cause teeth to shift as they grow. Other cases of malocclusion may be caused by:
- Pacifier use
- Tooth loss
For most patients, crooked teeth are only a cosmetic concern, but, for some, they can cause difficulties with speaking or eating. Most cases of malocclusion can, however, be corrected.
Treatment of Malocclusion
Treatment for malocclusion varies depending on the severity of the problem and the age of the patient. Most cases can be treated by removing certain teeth to make room for teeth that have yet to grow in, and then attaching braces to the teeth to correct the bite. Braces may be worn for several months or years, followed by the nighttime wearing of a retainer, which is designed to maintain the position of the teeth. For severe cases of malocclusion, surgery may be needed.