“Bad bite” is the term used to describe problems with how the upper and lower teeth meet. The technical term is malocclusion, and it is one of the most common oral problems. Healthy occlusion is marked by front teeth that are slightly in front of the bottom ones when biting down, and molars that set directly on top of each other.
If your teeth do not line up this way (in fact, most people’s teeth don’t!), there could be a few reasons why.
Potential Causes of a Bad Bite
- Genetics. Some people have misaligned teeth simply because it runs in their family. This is actually the most common reason for malocclusion, though not every child will experience the issue even if both parents did.
- Childhood habits. Some childhood habits can lead to malocclusion, including using a pacifier past age 3, using a bottle past age 2, and thumb-sucking. While it is not usually easy for parents to break these habits, it is important to be aware of the damage that they can have on the alignment of teeth later on.
- Injury. An injury such as a jaw fracture can lead to malocclusion.
- Issue with teeth. Having too many teeth, teeth that are abnormally shaped, or impacted teeth can lead to malocclusion.
How Do You Know if You Have a Bad Bite?
While malocclusion is easy to describe as misalignment of the teeth, it is marked by other symptoms, including:
- An altered appearance of the face
- Pain or discomfort when biting or chewing
- Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose
- Speech problems, such as a lisp
How is Malocclusion Treated?
In some cases, the problem is not severe enough to warrant treatment. However, even in mild cases, patients should keep in mind that unchecked malocclusion can lead to further issues, like TMJ disorders. TMJ disorders are marked by a variety of symptoms, including the obvious, like facial pain, and the not so obvious, like sleep apnea. So, if malocclusion is causing pain, discomfort, or even cosmetic concern, there are a few options for treatment to explore.
- Braces. An orthodontist can decided what type of braces are right for your mouth and how long you will need them.
- Extraction. Sometimes a bad bite is fixed by removing some unnecessary or misaligned teeth.
- Surgery. It is relatively uncommon to need surgery to correct malocclusion, but in some cases, it is the answer.
Malocclusion can develop at any time, and for a variety of reasons. The important thing is to see a dentist at the first sign of discomfort in the way the teeth line up. Because unchecked malocclusion can lead to more severe problems later on, like a TMJ disorder, seeing a dentist regularly is an important part of life for adults and children alike.