What is it? The term occlusion refers to the way your teeth are aligned. Malocclusion occurs when the alignment of your teeth differs from what is considered to be ideal. Proper alignment of the teeth is important for many reasons, including the role the teeth play in protecting your cheeks and your tongue from being bitten.
Malocclusion can occur in several different ways. Most commonly, malocclusion is hereditary, passed down from generation to generation. So, you can thank your great grandmother for your overbite!
Malocclusion can also occur as a result of other conditions or behaviors that impact a person’s mouth. A child who sucks their thumb, uses a pacifier, or drinks from a bottle well into their childhood is at risk of pushing their teeth out of the way of their thumb and causing malocclusion. An injured jaw can cause misalignment of the teeth. Medical conditions such as allergies, tumors, and cleft palates can also cause malocclusion.
The good news is, no matter what the cause is for your malocclusion, your orthodontist can likely help you treat your misaligned teeth.
What’s so bad about it? Malocclusion doesn’t only affect the alignment of your teeth. It can affect other functions of your mouth, including the frequency with which you bite the insides of your cheeks or your tongue; discomfort you may feel when you’re chewing or biting into food; certain speech problems, including a lisp; and breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. While treating malocclusion may result in a straighter, more beautiful smile, its benefits are much further reaching than purely aesthetic.
How can I prevent it? There’s not much we can do about your hereditary, but parents can help stack the deck in their children’s favor by helping their youngsters wean off pacifiers and thumb sucking at an early age. Parents can also graduate young children from bottles to sippy cups as early as possible, with the guidance of their pediatricians. Protect your teeth with a mouth guard while playing sports. A little bit of preventative action can really do a lot of good in preventing nonhereditary malocclusion in your life and in your children’s lives.
What can I do about it? If you feel like you’re experiencing malocclusion, talk to your orthodontist. They can talk you through their treatment plan for you. Treatment of malocclusion can include use of braces to realign teeth, stabilization of the jaw bone, removal of teeth to address over crowding, and sometimes surgery.
As with many medical and dental issues, we often put off addressing the issue and having it treated. Oftentimes, treatment can drastically improve your quality of life. Don’t put off taking care of your teeth. Schedule an appointment with your friendly neighborhood orthodontist (we definitely know a guy!) and make the first step to a healthier mouth!
To read more about malocclusion, check out these helpful articles:
There’s really no way around it: braces just aren’t that comfortable. Sometimes, they can really hurt! We want to arm you with as many tools as possible to address your braces pain and discomfort, so you can have a relatively smooth ride toward straighter teeth.
Change your toothpaste! Try out a toothpaste designed especially for sensitive teeth. Even if your teeth aren’t normally sensitive, they may begin to feel sensitive after you get your braces.
Brush your teeth gently! While we’re talking about brushing, let’s talk about how you’re brushing your teeth. You may really want to consider your tooth brushing technique now that you have braces. Go at it slowly and gently. You don’t want to hurt your braces or your mouth. Take your time!
Address your discomfort naturally! You may want to run to the medicine cabinet every time you feel braces pain, but you don’t need to! You can use household items to soothe your mouth, and save the painkillers for later.
Dissolve salt in warm water and swish it around in your mouth. This will soothe your gums without medication. It’s also a great way to bring comfort to a sore throat!
Suck on ice! The cold from ice or other frozen foods numbs your mouth and eases pain. If you’re going to be dealing with the discomfort of braces, you may as well get a few milkshakes out of it!
Be mindful of what you eat! Put the hard, crunchy food back in the fridge. Stick to soft foods that don’t require much chewing, if any. Mashed potatoes and thoroughly steamed carrots, while not particularly exciting, are your friends. Learn how to use a blender—you don’t have to chew smoothies!
Prevent Infections! Keeping your mouth as healthy as possible also prevents unnecessary pain and discomfort. Rinse with mouthwash to kill bacteria that are just looking for a place to call home. If your mouth doesn’t grow infections, you won’t feel that extra pain!
Use Wax! Purchase dental wax to protect sensitive areas of your mouth from being poked by your braces. Applying a ball of wax to your brackets provides a smooth, protective barrier between the metal and your mouth. This method is especially helpful at night, when you’re less aware of how you’re moving your teeth around.
Take Oral Painkillers Once you’ve sucked on ice and applied wax, you can always take over the counter painkillers. If you’re a kid, ask your parent to help you with this, of course.
Distract yourself!! It can really help for you to distract yourself from the discomfort. Watch your favorite TV show or play your favorite game. Take your bike for a ride around your neighborhood or cozy up with a good book.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to not lose hope! Remember why you have braces. Look forward to the day your braces come off! You can do this!!