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!
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