When people think of quality of life issues, they are generally considering serious problems involving mental or physical health, and not conditions of the gums, teeth and jaws. Yet certain dental health problems can seriously lower one’s quality of life due to impairment in the areas of self-esteem and a healthy, successful social and work life. Dental health is integral to one’s overall physical and mental well-being and malocclusion is a major barrier to both.
Malocclusion is a big word meaning abnormal teeth alignment. There are different forms of malocclusion. Each form has its own causes and requires different treatment methods for malocclusion correction. Malocclusion can be so slight as to be unnoticeable or so severe that the entire mouth is seriously deformed.
Major Forms of Malocclusion
- Crowded teeth are a misalignment where there are too many teeth in the mouth or the teeth are too large for the size of the mouth.
- Crossbite is malocclusion in which the top teeth and bottom teeth do not meet properly. This is caused by the position of the teeth, the jaw or a combination of both.
- An overbite occurs when the lower and upper jaws are not aligned causing the upper teeth to protrude over the lower teeth.
- The underbite is opposite of an overbite in that the lower teeth protrude outward more than the upper teeth giving a bull dog-like appearance to the face.
- The open bite is a condition where the upper and lower teeth don’t meet when the mouth is closed. This not only affects the person’s smile but also can cause difficulty with speech.
What Causes Malocclusion?
Besides heredity, there are other causes of abnormal teeth alignment.
- Habits among infants and young children like thumb sucking, prolonged use of pacifiers and the bottle.
- Thumb thrusting when infants double their tongue backwards in the throat to help push food down. This habit should end by age six.
- Extra teeth, lost teeth, impacted teeth and oddly shaped teeth
- Badly done dental fillings, crowns, dental appliances, retainers and braces
- Jaw fractures
- Tumors of the mouth and jaw
Symptoms of Malocclusion
The symptoms may be obvious but are not always so. The obvious malocclusion symptoms include a readily visible teeth malalignment or crowded teeth and an abnormal appearance to the face because of a cleft palate or lip, overbite, underbite, crossbite or open bite.
The less obvious symptoms of malocclusion are found by a dentist during a check-up. The dentist will perform a bite test where they will pull the cheek outward and ask the patient to bite down to see if their back teeth come together. If they don’t, the patient will undoubtedly be referred to an orthodontist for treatment. Other symptoms that are not readily apparent are:
- Difficulty or discomfort when biting or chewing
- Speech difficulties are rare but may include lisping
- Breathing through the mouth with the mouth open
- Inability to properly bite down on food
Malocclusion Treatment Options
The most important thing about malocclusion that patients need to know is it can be corrected. It is more easily corrected in the young, but adults can also be successfully treated for bad occlusion or abnormal teeth alignment – malocclusion correction just takes longer for adults and is more expensive. It is also well worth the time and expense as it can alter the quality of the patient’s life in a positive manner, no matter how young or how old the patient.
People anywhere near Houston, Texas will be pleased and reassured about the condition of their teeth and mouth with a visit to Voss Dental. Voss Dental offers a wide range of dental services for the entire family from cosmetic dentistry to complicated oral surgeries including implants, extractions, dentures, braces and root canals and other forms of malocclusion correction.
All Voss’s dentists are exceptionally qualified and attend ongoing educational seminars to keep them up-to-date with the latest in dental care and technology. All patients are offered comfort, peace of mind and outstanding care with the latest in dental equipment and techniques to assure proper malocclusion correction. Voss Dental also accepts many insurance coverages and offers easy-pay financial plans. No one near Houston, Texas need go through life in pain with missing teeth, malocclusion, gum disease or impacted or decaying teeth.
Some of the treatment methods available for severe malocclusion in adults and older teenagers are implants, dentures and braces. The diagnosis and treatment of malocclusion is performed by an orthodontist. The orthodontist will take x-rays and impressions of the teeth and mouth to determine the extent of the misalignment and the most appropriate treatment method for malocclusion correction.
If the case is mild enough, the treatment could call for veneers, bridges, crowns or dentures. Most cases, however, will require orthodontics, meaning braces. There are different types of braces to suit different types and severity of malocclusion.
Types of Braces
With these, a bracket is attached to the front of each tooth with a special type of adhesive. The brackets could be made of metal or ceramic and are linked together by wires. Fixed braces are indicated in severe cases of bad occlusion.
Metal braces are cheaper than the ceramic variety, but the ceramics are more natural looking. Ceramics also take longer to accomplish the desired re-alignment result than the metal ones.
This type of appliance is barely noticeable because it is clear. They can be removed during meals and tooth brushing unlike their fixed brace counterparts. They are suitable for the milder cases of misalignment.
They are more expensive than fixed braces but are an appropriate option for people who dislike the appearance of bracesand the clumsiness encountered when eating and performing dental hygiene with the fixed braces’
These are similar to the fixed braces but are attached to the back of each tooth rather than the front. These are usually the choice of adults and older teenagers concerned with their appearance with the application of traditional fixed braces. The lingual braces are more expensive and more difficult to keep clean than the usual fixed braces. They can also hinder speech, as they are apt to graze the tongue.
Prevention of Malocclusion
Before 1970, malocclusion was considered solely to be the result of genetics. It was thought that malalignment was caused by the inherited trait of unbalanced growth of the bones in the skull and face. After 1970, a separation of genetics and environmental effects was made with the discovery of new genetic methods. The studies showed that a large part of malocclusion is determined by environmental factors.
Preventive measures for malocclusion have been established since 1970 with this discovery. Heredity cannot be changed, but environmental factors can be. These environmental factors include:
- Parent counseling/education
- Control of cavities
- Space maintenance
- Management of oral habits
- Extraction of superfluous teeth
Parental counseling should begin prenatally with nutrition instructions for the mom-to-be including adequate amounts of calcium and phosphorous to build the baby’s incoming teeth. During this period, the parents should be informed of good hygiene practices for their child to include cleaning the gums and teeth with a finger brush and a soft cloth dipped in a saltwater solution.
Bottle-feeding should be discouraged at 18-24 months. The child should be encouraged to brush on their own twice a day and parents should bring the child for regular dental care within six months after the first tooth emerges.
A baby’s instinct is to suck whether it is a thumb, a pacifier or a bottle. Bottle-feeding as mentioned earlier should cease at 18-24 months, but the thumb sucking or use of a pacifier should end at around age three or four to avoid bad occlusion. This can be accomplished by substituting alternative toys or games to ease the child into different, healthier habits.
Cavities are the main source of the development of malocclusion. If cavities are not treated, they may cause adjacent teeth to move out of place leading to crowding which may result in misalignment of ensuing permanent teeth.
A tooth maintains its correct relationship in the mouth due to the action of several forces. If any of these forces is altered or removed, the relationship of the adjacent teeth will be altered; the teeth will drift and become crowded in the mouth.
Also, when primary teeth are lost too soon, migration of adjacent teeth can occur, once again, leading to crowded teeth. If either of these events occurs, the dentist can place a space maintainer in the mouth, restoring the proper function and space as much as possible to prevent problems with the opposing teeth.
The outlook for children with malocclusion and for severe malocclusion in adults has never been rosier. With caring, professional dental specialists such as those found at Voss Dental in Houston, TX, and given the technical breakthroughs in dental equipment as well as continuous discoveries in the field of dentistry, orthodontics and treatment methods for malocclusion, the future is much brighter than it has ever been.
As long as parents receive the crucial education necessary for the well-being of their children’s teeth beginning prenatally, teach their children proper hygiene from birth and take them on regular visits to the dentist, severe malocclusion may cease to be a detriment to the quality of life for everyone.