Call Us: (480) 722-7600
Malocclusion is the most common reason for referral to an orthodontist. Very few people have a perfect occlusion or bite. Occlusion refers to the alignment of teeth and the way that the upper and lower teeth fit together. The points of molars fit the grooves of the opposing molar. All teeth should be aligned and straight and are ususal spaced proportionally. The upper teeth keep the cheeks and lips from being bitten and the lower teeth protect the tongue. A common cause of malocclusion is disproportion between jaw size and tooth size or between the size of the upper and lower jaws. These differences can result in the overcrowding of teeth and in an abnormal bite. Another cause is lost of one or more teeth. When a tooth is lost, nearby teeth tend to drift into the newly available space, moving them out of alignment. During infancy, personal habits like thumb sucking beyond age 4, tongue thrusting, pacifier use beyond the age of 3 and prolonged use of a bottle can greatly affect the shape of the jaws as well. Less common causes of malocclusion includes misalignment of a jaw due to fracture, tumors of the mouth or jaw and there can also be a hereditary component.
A misaligned bite or malocclusion usually causes no symptoms at first. Eventually, though, it may result in loosening or fracture of misaligned teeth because of the strain placed on them. They can also lead to difficulty or discomfort when biting or chewing as well as speech difficulties. Some habits may develop such as grinding and clenching that can lead to joint and muscle pain. Correcting the problem can result in better oral health because crooked and crowded teeth can make daily oral hygiene difficult. Overtime, this may lead to cavities, gum disease and possibly tooth loss. An improper bite can interfere with chewing and speaking, also it can cause abnormal wear to tooth enamel and lead to problems with the jaw joint.
A person's appearance can have a big effect on how they feel about themselves, which in turn has an impact on their quality of life. This may be particularly true for children and adolescents with poor teeth or unattractive bite traits, who can become targets for teasing, name-calling and harassment from other children.
Malocclusion can be corrected in a number of ways. Orthodontic treatment often is more comfortable and takes less time than it did years ago. Braces have brackets that are smaller making them less noticeable. Brackets are made of metal, ceramic, plastic. Further more teeth can be realigning by applying continuous mild force through the use of a removable appliance made of clear plastic (Clear Braces) which the patient can take out of his or her mouth for eating and general oral hygiene. These are the least noticeable and most comfortable. They are, however, not adequate for children.
Although treatment plans are customized for each patient, most people wear their braces for one to three years depending on the conditions that need correcting. After treatment is completed the patient needs to wear a retainer for life in order to avoid relapsing of the initial problem.