The upper and lower rows of teeth should fit well together when you close your mouth typically. However, if you can no longer put the teeth together, and therefore do not fit properly, you can be said to be having dental malocclusion. Often this causes extra tension in the jaw joint, and can cause pain in the jaw and / or face.
The cause of malocclusion of the teeth differs: genetic factors play a major role, but accidents with facial injuries, respiratory problems and persistent thumb sucking can also play an important role in the development of the condition.
There are different types of malocclusion:
- Disto-occlusion: the teeth of the lower jaw are much more to the rear than usual. People with disto-occlusion are often inclined to place the lower lip behind the front teeth.
- Angle Class III malocclusion: the lower row of teeth is positioned forward. This mainly causes problems with the chewing muscles.
- Traumatic deep bite: the lower teeth are moved backwards in such a way that they come into contact with the palate. This can cause pain and open wounds in the palate and pain when chewing.
- Lateral and anterior cross-bite: this includes 1 or more of the upper teeth within the lower row of teeth. This not only disrupts regular chewing movements but can also cause abnormalities in the development of the jaw joints over time.
- Open bite: only the molar teeth still have contact with each other. There is no contact of the upper and lower rows of the front teeth. An open bite is often the result of permanent thumb or finger sucking.
- Asymmetrical growth is usually the result of trauma. Both jaw halves sometimes develop unevenly.
Malocclusion can result in further problems. These issues might include difficulty in sleeping, speech disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis of the jaw joint, and so on.
Certainly with children and young people a regular mouth check by a dentist is essential so that they can catch the problem early and then refer them to an orthodontist for prompt and more comfortable treatment.
The treatment of maloccluded teeth is done by a specially trained dentist – the orthodontist. Tooth growth and the development of the bite are checked, and then the abnormality is corrected with the aid orthodontic devices, surgery (in severe cases), physiotherapy, behavior modification etc.