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A malocclusion of teeth is a common orthodontic problem that can be corrected with dental braces. Literally referred to as a “bad bite,” malocclusions refer to the misalignment of teeth. You most likely know a malocclusion of teeth as an overbite or underbite. At some point during your grade school years, you probably even used the term “buck teeth.”

The term “occlusion” refers to a perfect bite. This is what an orthodontist strives for when treating malocclusions, but an occlusion seldom happens naturally.

Unfortunately, most people have some form of malocclusion of teeth — and they can’t help it! A large percentage of malocclusions are hereditary. But abnormal dental problems, such as crowded, protruding or missing teeth can contribute to malocclusions. Outside forces such as thumb-sucking can also misalign teeth. In most cases, patients have no control over malocclusions. All they can do is have the situation monitored and treated by an orthodontist or dentist who does braces.

Classifying Malocclusions

There are three main classifications of malocclusions, a class i malocclusion, a class ii malocclusion and a class iii malocclusion. Here is a description of each:

Class I Malocclusion — In this form, the bite is normal, but the teeth are crooked or crowded. This can make it difficult to brush and floss properly, leading to other dental problems.

Class II Malocclusion — Often referred to as an overbite, a class ii malocclusion happens when the top teeth greatly protrude beyond the bottom teeth. This is usually the result of a large top jaw or small bottom jaw, and it causes the front teeth to have a “buck teeth” appearance.

Class III Malocclusion — A class iii malocclusion is an underbite and results when the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth. In this situation the bottom jaw is often too large, or vice versa.

Register this: just because a bite is classified doesn’t mean it’s top-secret! Unfortunately, most malocclusions are noticeable, and treatment is needed to reduce their appearance.

Treating Malocclusions

Dental braces are the conventional treatment for malocclusions. In extreme circumstances, oral surgery may be necessary to repair an over- or underbite. Although adults can receive treatment for malocclusions, it is easier to correct in children and teens. As their jaws are still developing, teeth are easier to move.

Some malocclusions may not be visible to your friends, but dentists can spot them during dental exams. It’s worth getting it checked out — even minor orthodontic adjustments can help your bite!

Fix It, but Don’t Forget It!

If not corrected, a class ii malocclusion or a class iii malocclusion can lead to a plethora of other dental problems. Unaligned teeth are harder to keep clean, contributing to tooth decay. Malocclusions can cause problems with chewing, change the structure of the face, and in rare cases, even lead to speech problems.

If you think you have a malocclusion of teeth, talk to your dentist.