When a person's teeth or jaws do not fit together properly, orthodontic treatment may be necessary to correct the problem. If left untreated, these orthodontic problmes (known as "malocclusions") can cause damage to the teeth, gums and bones, as well as lead to speech difficulties, premature and uneven wear of the teeth and an increased risk of injury to the teeth. Here are the most common orthodontic problems.
Crowding occurs when teeth have insufficient room to erupt into the mouth. It is the most common reason for someone to want orthodontic treatment. Not only is crowding unattractive, but it also makes it very difficult for someone to clean their teeth properly and has been linked to increased periodontal disease and tooth decay.
Spacing problems may be caused by missing teeth, small teeth or too much room between teeth. Generally this is an esthetic concern for patients but it could also lead to shifting of the bite which will contribute to future dental disease.
An overbite (technically called "overjet" in dental terminology) is when the upper front teeth extend too far out over the lower front teeth. This protrusion can cause functional problems (trouble biting, chewing, speaking) and also increases the risk of trauma to the upper front teeth.
An underbite is characterized by the lower jaw extending too far forward, causing the lower teeth to sit in front of the upper teeth. Referred to as a Class III bite, this condition can worsen over time, causing uneven wear of the tooth structure and significant functional problems.
This malocclusion occurs when the upper teeth bite on the inside of the lower teeth, which is backwards to the proper bite. This type of bite can make it difficult for a patient to close their mouth properly and can bring about facial asymmetry. If left untreated, long term problems include uneven wear of teeth, misaligned jaws and midline discrepancies.
This malocclusion is characterized by the upper and lower front teeth not coming together when a patient is biting all the way down. The upper and lower front teeth do not overlap properly, creating a hole or space when biting. An openbite can be caused by many things, including a thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting habit. It also can be caused by a skeletal discrepancy. Proper biting, chewing and speaking can be affected by an openbite.
When the upper and lower jaws are not aligned properly, the lower jaw will shift to one side creating a significant dental midline discrepancy. This is usually a sign that the back bite is not coming together properly, which will negatively impact proper jaw and dental function. Misaligned jaws will cause pain, discomfort and esthetic concerns for a patient.