What is malocclusion?
Malocclusion literally means bad bite. Some children’s jaws and teeth do not develop properly. Malocclusion refers to crooked, misaligned teeth and a fault in the relation between the bottom and top set of teeth (the two dental arches). This may develop because of injury to the teeth or facial bones, frequent thumb sucking, or for reasons unknown.
Thumb sucking (or finger sucking) can result in localized deformation of the teeth and supporting bone. In order to restore a natural improvement, the thumb sucking habit has to be stopped.
Generally, malocclusions do not affect physical health, malocclusion is not a disease, it is a variation in the normal position of teeth. However, it may impact on the shape of the person’s face and the appearance of their teeth, which can lead to embarrassment, a lack of self-confidence, and even depression.
Severe malocclusion may affect eating, speech and keeping the teeth clean.
Approximately one third of all 12 year-olds in the country probably need orthodontic treatment. People may require orthodontic treatment for different problems:
The front teeth protrude – treatment not only improves the patient’s appearance, but also protects the teeth from damage; people with protruding front teeth are more likely to injure them in sports, falling down, etc.
Crowding – if the patient’s jaw is narrow, there may not be enough space for all the teeth. In such cases the orthodontist may have to remove one or more teeth to make room for the others.
Impacted teeth – as the adult teeth come through, they are not in the right position
Asymmetrical teeth – the upper and lower teeth do not match, especially when the mouth is closed but the teeth are showing.
Deep bite (overbite) – when the teeth are clenched, the upper ones come down over the lower ones too much
Reverse bite – when the teeth are clenched, the upper teeth bite inside the lower ones
Open bite – when the teeth are clenched, there is an opening between the upper and lower teeth.
Underbite – the upper teeth are too far back, or the lower teeth a too far forward (“bulldog” appearance)
Crossbite – at least one of the upper teeth does not come down slightly in from of the lower teeth when the teeth are clenched; they are too near the cheek or the tongue
Spacing – there are gaps or spaces between the teeth, either because a tooth is missing, or the teeth simply do not fill-up the mouth (opposite of crowding)
When can orthodontic treatment start?
Treatment will not usually commence until the child is about 12 or 13 years old; when the adult teeth have come through and developed fully. In some cases treatment may start a couple of years later if teeth problems had not become noticeable beforehand.
Children with a cleft lip and palate may require orthodontic treatment before their adult teeth have developed completely.
Good oral hygiene is essential before any orthodontic work can begin. When devices are placed on the teeth, bits of food are much more likely to become stuck; the patient will need to brush much more carefully and more often to prevent tooth decay while treatment is ongoing.
Patients who have not reached good oral hygiene standards beforehand are much more likely to suffer from tooth decay after treatment begins. Diagnosing dental problems and recommending treatment optionsAssessment – the orthodontist will assess the state of the patient’s teeth and make a prediction on how they are likely to develop without treatment.
The following diagnostic procedures will be performed:
A full medical and dental health history
A clinical examination
X-rays of the teeth and jaw
Plaster models of the teeth
After the assessment is done, the orthodontist will decide on a treatment plan. There are two types of orthodontic appliances: fixed and removable ones.
Fixed appliances – the most common devices used in orthodontics. They are used when precision is important. Although the patient can eat normally with fixed appliances, some foods and drinks need to be avoided, such as carbonated drinks, hard sweets, or toffee. People who participate in contact sports need to tell their orthodontist, so that special gum shields can be made.