Malocclusion, which translates from Latin to mean 'improper closing', is the term used by orthodontists to discuss various types of bite problems. Improperly aligned teeth not only affect appearance but can negatively impact dental functions such as speaking, eating, and maintaining effective oral hygiene. Depending on severity, bite problems can also lead to damaged teeth or conditions effecting the jaw and its related structures. Continue reading to learn more about the various types of common bite problems, or malocclusions, in orthodontics.
Crowding is a condition in which there is a lack of necessary space for all the teeth to fit ideally within the arch space. This lack of space causes teeth to be rotated, displaced, or impacted. Crowding may be caused by several factors including genetic factors, improper eruption of teeth, early or late loss of primary teeth, extra teeth, or teeth that are larger than the space available.
A crossbite is a type of malocclusion in which the upper teeth bite behind or inside the lower teeth. This can happen with front or back teeth. Crossbites often develop during the years in which the teeth and jaws are in growth. Left untreated, crossbites can cause abnormal wear of teeth, asymmetric jaw growth, and increase the risk of temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders.
Gapped teeth, also referred to as spaces or diastemas, are gaps between the front or back teeth that are the result of a mismatch between the size of the jaw bones and teeth. Spaces may be caused by genetic conditions such as missing or undersized teeth, an oversized gum tissue (frenum), or prolonged habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrust.
An open bite describes the orthodontic condition in which the upper and lower teeth are unable to make physical contact upon closure of the jaw. The causes of open bites include genetic factors and/or poor oral habits such as thumb and lip sucking and tongue thrusting. If left untreated, open bites may cause speech impairments, dental wear, or difficulty eating.
An overbite is the condition of having overlap of the upper and lower teeth. Overbites are considered deep overbites and no longer within normal range when there is a 3+ millimeter overlap present. Overbites may cause the lower teeth to impinge on gum tissue and can negatively impact facial aesthetics. They may also cause problems with chewing, jaw muscle strain, and increased risk of tooth injury and wear of the teeth.
An underbite, also known as a Class III malocclusion, occurs when the lower jaw or teeth protrudes beyond the upper. The causes of underbites are most often genetic, but external factors such as childhood habits and facial injuries may also lead to or worsen this orthodontic condition. An underbite may cause difficulties chewing food, speaking, jaw pain, mouth breathing (causing bacterial infections and bad breath), or tooth wear.