Every time you look in the mirror, you see it. Your smile. But your smile isn’t making you smile. If something about your bite seems off, you probably have a malocclusion.
Malocclusion and Types
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a malocclusion results from failure of your teeth to align properly. An occlusion is how your teeth align; meaning, the way the upper and lower teeth fit together. This is more commonly referred to as your bite. A normal bite occurs when the upper teeth slightly fit over the lower teeth. And the molar points fit in the grooves of the opposite molar. The upper and lower teeth each serve protective purposes inside the mouth. The upper teeth protect against biting your cheeks and lips while the lower teeth safeguard the tongue.
There are three categories of malocclusion; Class I, Class II, and Class III.
A Class I malocclusion is when the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth. Despite that minor imperfection, a Class I malocclusion bite is considered normal. The only real drawback associated with a Class I is that the teeth tend to be crowded and crooked. This can make maintaining good oral care through brushing and flossing a challenge. And that can lead to dental problems down the line.
A Class II malocclusion results from the upper teeth and jaw severely overlapping the lower teeth and jaw. This is known as a retrognathism. Or, more commonly referred to as an overbite.
A Class III malocclusion results from the lower jaw and teeth greatly protruding beyond the upper teeth and jaw. This is known as a prognathism. Or, more commonly referred to as an underbite.
For those suffering from one of the malocclusion classes, specifically Class II or Class III, there are a handful of symptoms that indicate you have a bite issue according to Healthline. Misaligned teeth is a common one. A person’s facial appearance might appear altered. Frequently biting the tongue or inner cheeks and discomfort when biting and chewing are common traits that signal a bite problem exists. You also might develop speech issues, including a lisp. Lastly, you could regularly breathe through your mouth as opposed to your nose.
Having an overbite is quite common according to DentalHealthMed.com. Some people don’t even realize they have an overbite malocclusion since it isn’t serious enough to warrant dental intervention.
Overbites can be skeletal or dental. A skeletal overbite tends to refer to the upper jaw severely protruding beyond the lower jaw. A dental overbite is tooth-related. Realignment of the jaw and non-invasive bite correction can correct this.
Three main causes of overbites are hereditary conditions, jaw bone abnormalities, and poor chewing habits. Leaving an overbite untreated can cause oral health issues. Some of these include jaw pain, enamel loss, speech issues, and poor self-esteem. Chances of developing tooth decay and periodontal disease also increase.
Developing an underbite is far less common than having an overbite notes DentalHealthMed.com. Underbites occur in only five to ten percent of the world’s population. Folks of Asian descent are more prone to having a Class III malocclusion.
Similar to an overbite, an underbite is caused by hereditary conditions, jaw bone abnormalities, and poor chewing habits. Thumb-sucking as a baby can also lead to an underbite.
Not correcting an underbite will lead to many of the same oral health issues as an untreated overbite does. An untreated underbite also leads to abnormal tooth alignment.
If you think you suffer from a faulty bite, schedule a dental consultation. Your dentist will examine you for a malocclusion, determine the type, and discuss potential treatments, including non-surgical options.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Sam Muslin, DDS.
Non-Surgical Mouth Reconstruction and Facelift Dentistry, Santa Monica, CA