Tooth and jaw misalignment can lead to dental problems

Malocclusion refers to an irregularity in the bite, the way the upper and lower teeth come together. Often genetic (running in families), it may include having too many teeth, having an overbite (upper teeth protrude too far over lower) or underbite (lower teeth and jaw stick out further than upper), or having a crossbite, in which the upper and lower jaw and teeth do not line up properly. The problem is often identified with regular dental checkups and is usually treated during childhood while the bones and tissues are still soft. Adults may also be treated for malocclusion, but because the teeth have already grown in it may take longer for correction.

Misalignment of teeth can cause numerous problems, including difficulties with eating and chewing, such as biting the cheeks inside the mouth. It can also cause breathing problems if the person tends to breathe only through the mouth because the teeth don’t allow the mouth to close easily for nasal breathing. Having too many teeth or misaligned teeth can also lead to impacted teeth, which means that teeth that grow in cannot grow straight and may affect the surrounding teeth, possibly even causing infection and conditions such as gingivitis. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is another potential condition causes by malocclusion. Malocclusion can further affect the appearance of the mouth and face, which may cause a child or adult to feel self-conscious and could negatively affect social interactions.

A dentist may refer a patient with malocclusion to an orthodontist who may recommend treatment such as removal of teeth, and implementation of braces or other dental devices to straighten the teeth and jaw.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.