Austin, TX – If you have ever been in an orthodontic office, chances are you’ve heard the term malocclusion used. But do you know what it means? Quite simply, malocclusion means a bad bite. Occlusion refers to the alignment of the teeth, and the way both the upper and lower teeth fit together.
“In an ideal bite, the upper teeth should fit slightly over the lower teeth when the mouth is closed, and the points of each molar should fit nicely into the grooves of its corresponding opposite molar,” says Dr. Chris Stansbury of Wired Orthodontics. “But for many of us, we don’t have that ideal occlusal relationship, which sends us to an orthodontist’s office. There are a few reasons why one may end up with a malocclusion.”
The most common reason is actually just your genetics, meaning your bad bite might actually have been passed down from your parents or grandparents. There can be a discrepancy between the sizes of your upper and lower jaw, or between your jaw and tooth size. Wherever this discrepancy lies, it can lead to teeth that are spaced incorrectly and abnormal bite patterns.
“Our ancient ancestors probably had much better bites than we do today,” says Dr. Stansbury. “Their jaws were much bigger than ours, allowing for plenty of space for all of the teeth, even the wisdom teeth. But as we changed and our diets and genetics changed, so did the size of our jaws. That’s why so many of us have had or will have braces one day.”
Non Genetics Causes
For those of us who’ve drawn the short end of the genetics stick, there isn’t anything we can do to change our smiles, other than orthodontic treatment. But, that’s not the only cause of malocclusions. Other causes can include:
- Dental fillings, crowns, appliance that don’t fit properly
- Injury to the jaw
- Extra teeth, impacted teeth, or abnormally shaped teeth
- Childhood habits, such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, bottle use, or pacifier use that extend too long
“While you can’t help inheriting a small jaw or the timing in which your teeth fall out, you can control some other ways malocclusions can form, such as through extended thumbsucking,” says Dr. Stansbury. “Children who suck their thumbs past the age of two, or who continue to use a pacifier or bottle, can actually affect the way their soft palate grows, and therefore negatively affect the alignment of the teeth and bite. Tongue thrusting also puts unnecessary pressure on the teeth, and can negatively affect how the mouth grows.”
This is one of the reasons why it is so important for children to visit an orthodontist by the age of seven. At this age, the orthodontist can spot how bad habits may have begun to affect the child’s bite, and make recommendations to correct these habits before even more damage is done. But it also allows the orthodontist the opportunity to monitor the growth of the child’s mouth and jaw, and begin treatment at the right time to have the most impact.
If you believe your child may have a malocclusion, call Wired Orthodontics today at 512-258-6979.