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Understanding Malocclusion of the Teeth

Malocclusion of the teeth is a severe misalignment that can lead to more severe dental conditions. This condition has also been called overbite, open bite, under-bite, cross bite, or crowded teeth.

girl smiling

If teeth do not properly connect, or if they’re misaligned, they will not be able to perform the vital functions they are designed for. The best way to protect your vital functions like bone structure and digestive health, it is important to be conscious of the role the teeth play.

Occlusion can be best described as the alignment of the teeth. The optimal layout include neatly spaced teeth that are not twisted or turned in anyway. The teeth of the upper jaw neatly fold over the teeth of the lower jaw and the pointed ridges in the molars interlock perfectly with those above.

Malocclusion is the term given to deviations from this optimal form. The deviations can vary to a great degree but the point is that all misalignment and occlusion will affect dental function in some way. Proper alignment of the upper teeth keeps the cheeks and lips from being bitten, while the proper alignment of the lower teeth protects the tongue from being bitten.

1. What Causes Malocclusion?

Malocclusion is a typically inherited condition, which means that the genes of the parents will pass on the malocclusion to children.

Then there are other specific habits and conditions that can contribute to the misalignment of the teeth. These include:

–Prolonged feeding from bottles during early childhood.
— tumors of the jaw and mouth
Cleft Palate or lip
–abnormally shaped or impacted teeth.
–The use of pacifiers during infancy and before the age of 3.
–injuries that result in the misalignment of the jaw
–improper dental care that can include ill-fitting braces and defective crown, fillings or bridges.
–airway obstructions that can cause mouth breathing, like allergies adenoids etc.

2. What Are the Symptoms of a Malocclusion?

Depending on the severity of the condition, the symptoms of malocclusion can be very subtle or very pronounced. Some of these symptoms include.

— speech problems, including the development of a lisp
— discomfort when chewing or biting
— improper alignment of the teeth
— breathing through the mouth rather than the nose
— alteration in the appearance of the face
— frequent biting of the inner cheeks or tongue

3. Diagnosing and Classifying Malocclusion

Malocclusion is classified in different ways depending on the type of deviation and its severity. Your dentist will conduct routine dental examinations and take x rays to determine which classification your malocclusion can be.

The three categories of malocclusion include.

Class 1– the most common type of malocclusion occurs when the teeth of the upper jaw overlap the teeth of the lower jaw. The bite is comparatively normal and the the deviation is slight.

Class 2 — this category of malocclusion covers all severe overbites. This condition also has the name retrognathism (or retrognathia). Referring to the severe overbite of the upper law and overlap of the lower teeth.

Class 3 — this type of malocclusion occurs when there is a severe under-bite present. Also called prognathism, and refers to protrusion of the lower jaw, this can cause the teeth of the lower jaw to overlap those of the upper jaw.

4. How Is a Malocclusion of the Teeth Treated?

The vast majority of malocclusion conditions will require no treatment. If the malocclusion is severe enough to affect your dental function, your dentist may refer you to a qualified orthodontist. Your orthodontist will recommend any one or a combination of the following treatments.:

— reshaping, bonding, or capping of teeth
— wires or plates to stabilize the jaw bone
— braces to correct the position of the teeth
— removal of teeth to correct overcrowding
— surgery to reshape or shorten the jaw

Some of the more common conditions that can result from treatment of this type include:

— irritation of the mouth due to the presence of an appliance.
–pain and severe discomfort
–difficulty speaking and chewing after the procedure.
–increased possibility of tooth decay.

5. How Can Malocclusion Be Prevented?

Because the majority of malocclusion cases are hereditary, it is hard to prevent them. Nevertheless, parents who are aware of this condition in their bloodline should consider taking action and preventing pacifier and bottle feeding from aggravating the condition. Early detection is also an important way to begin administering adjustments in formative years while the full effects of the malocclusion have no yet been consolidated.

Early treatment of the conditions and deviations will make treatment time considerably shorter.

The costs of treatment will also be much cheaper.

Nevertheless, no matter your age, treatment for this condition has invariably improved the quality of life of the individual.


Common Orofacial Cleft Conditions

Cleft palate and cleft lip known as orofacial clefts are a common type of birth defect which occurs when an infant’s mouth or lip does not develop correctly during pregnancy. People who have these conditions will often have to undergo a number of surgeries along with other types of medical procedures.

Even though the exact causes associated with orofacial cleft conditions is unknown, the affected children usually have a close or distant relative that had an orofacial cleft. This is a suggestion that genes can be a deciding factor as to why some people contract this condition.

Associated Conditions With Orofacial Cleft

In many cases when a baby is born presenting a cleft palate or cleft lip there are chances that they have other medical conditions. The associated conditions often include 22q11 Deletion Syndrome, Stickler Syndrome and PRS (Pierre Robin Sequence). The pregnant mothers that have received a diagnosis for their unborn child with a orofacial cleft condition, will in most cases be offered with additional tests as these babies have a higher chance of having other syndromes when compared to a baby without orofacial clefts. Some mothers undergo amniocentesis tests to try and detect syndromes that have a greater impact like Down’s and Edwards syndrome.

One of the more common conditions often associated with cleft is PRS (Pierre-Robin Sequence). This condition is typically detected once the baby is born and the baby will have a very small chin. These infants will usually have cleft plates as their tongues are not able to fall into position correctly while the infant is developing. This cleft is typically U-shaped and wide and will have an effect on the hard-palate and the soft palate.

Babies that are born with PRS may have breathing difficulties and CNS (Clinical Nurse Specialists) will advise the mother on an “individual basis”. However, they often suggest that the infant feed and sleep on “their” sides for a number of weeks after the birth. Some babies with this condition will require assistance with their airways and in some cases a naso-gastric tube will be used to deliver food directly into the stomach and to avoid the risks of milk that goes down incorrectly during feeding.

Stickler Syndrome is another condition associated with a cleft lip or palate. This is a far rarer condition and in some cases will go un-diagnosed. SS (Stickler Syndrome) is recognized as a type of genetic condition which is typically passed from one of the parents onto the child. This condition is common in both girls and boys. Having this condition decreases the amounts of connective tissue and collagen that support the organs or cover for the bone ends inside each joint. Collagen also assist with the normal functioning of the eyes, so babies that are born with this syndrome will typically need frequent check-ups at eye-hospitals. Stickler Syndrome is also linked with the heart murmurs like “mitral valve prolapse”, and also will require regular visits to a Cardiologist or Pediatric heart doctor.

22q11 Deletion Syndrome that also goes by the name of Conotruncal Anomaly Face Syndrome, Shprintzen Syndrome and DiGeorge Syndrome. This syndrome happens due to a fault that occurs in chromosome 22 which usually results in unusual or characteristic facial features, abnormalities of the heart and palate issues such as an isolated cleft palates or sub-mucous plates whereby a layer of thin skin covers the cleft. Other symptoms can include the soft plate that may appear normal but causes issues with feeding or speech, lowered immunities to infections, blood-calcium levels that are low. The babies that are born with 22q11 Deletion Syndrome can have one or all of the above mentioned conditions.