When a patient puts their teeth together, we call that relationship—in occlusion.
One of the things an orthodontist looks for, in a patient’s occlusion, is that the upper teeth are out over the top of the lower teeth. That is normal occlusion. When the upper and lower teeth don’t meet comfortably the cause is a misaligned jaw. Sometimes if the condition is severe it can interfere with eating, breathing, sleeping, speech, and cause discomfort and pain even when the jaw isn’t moving. This is because the joint where the upper and lower jaw meets is complex, and when it isn’t able to function properly, chronic pain is often the result.
The most well-known issues in this category include overbites and underbites; however, there are other types of misaligned jaws.
This is where there is a significant overlap of upper teeth over lower teeth. An ideal overbite has a degree of overlap that would be about one or two millimetres and is not regarded as a malocclusion. A deep overbite, also referred to as a vertical overbite, is approximately 4 to 10 millimetres deep, and is considered a malocclusion which requires treatment. When an overbite is deep, the patient’s chin generally is pushed back by the upper teeth towards the jaw joint. Deep overbites generally cause the shape of the patient’s face to be short and round. Without overbite correction, the patient’s speech is less than clear because the patient has to accommodate their jaw position for all the various types of function as speaking, chewing, clenching and grinding.
An underbite occurs when a person’s lower jaw protrudes forward and in front of the upper jaw giving the chin and lower teeth prominence. Besides the aesthetic issue, underbites can also cause other problems, such as difficulty with chewing, swallowing and speaking. Underbites can wear down tooth enamel, increasing your chance of developing tooth decay or other dental problems. Underbites occur mostly due to genetic reasons. However, children who have had prolonged pacifier use may also develop an underbite.
Crossbites occur when one or more teeth may be tilted toward the cheek (known as buccal) or toward the tongue (known as lingual) as compared to the tooth above it. The crossbite can be on one or both sides of the jaw. The condition causes excessive stress on the jawbone. Sometimes it is caused by thumb sucking or by a delayed loss of baby teeth or an irregular eruption of new teeth.
This is when upper and lower teeth do not touch each other and are forced outwards – even when the mouth is closed. The problem is often caused by any action by the patient which puts a strain on the alignment of the teeth, especially when the patient is young. Primary causes in this regard are thumb sucking, tongue thrusting and chewing on a pencil or some similar object. Prolonged and incorrect use of feeding bottles and pacifiers could also contribute to the development of the condition. The patient could develop a lisp from an open bite.
When these types of malocclusion occur, an orthodontist will be able to correct them using a variety of techniques. The method used to remedy your malocclusion will be determined once your orthodontist has diagnosed the condition.
Misaligned Jaw FAQs
Can thumb sucking affect my child’s teeth?
Yes. Thumb sucking can lead to a variety of issues such as open bites. If your child is in the habit of thumb sucking, it is in their best interest for you to step in to try and break this poor habit for the sake of their teeth.
How is malocclusion corrected?
There are a variety of ways in which an orthodontist may correct malocclusion. This ranges from orthodontic elastics to headgear. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.
How long will treatment take to correct malocclusion?
This is a highly individual matter and differs greatly from patient to patient. The time in which it takes to correct your bite is dependent on the severity of the malocclusion as well as whether or not it is coupled with any other issues. Treatment can range from anywhere between a few months to a few years.
If you have any questions about the alignment of your jaw, please contact us today!