A Bad Bite: What Causes Malocclusion?

Content Provided By Dr. Scott Ralph

Published On: Feb 17 2012 01:09:47 PM PST   Updated On: Feb 17 2012 01:13:10 PM PST

A Bad Bite: What Causes Malocclusion?
Mal (Latin: “bad”) occlusion (Latin: “bite”)

If you’ve visited our office, you’ve likely heard us use the term “malocclusion.” But what is malocclusion, and what causes it? Commonly referred to as overbite or underbite, malocclusion is the condition of having poorly aligned teeth, in which the upper and lower teeth don’t fit together properly. There are a number of risk factors that can lead to malocclusion, and fortunately, some of them are preventable. Read on to find out what causes this condition:

Family History
Most often malocclusion is a hereditary problem. Jaw and tooth size are inherited traits that can produce a mismatched proportion, such as teeth too large for a small jaw or small teeth that don’t fill the space available in a larger jaw.

Oral Habits
In children, habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting (placing the tongue against or between the teeth while swallowing), or the prolonged use of a pacifier or bottle may cause malocclusion.

Dental Health
Poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease and tooth decay, which in turn can lead to tooth loss or require extraction (removal by a dentist). The loss of a tooth may cause bordering teeth to drift out of place.

Trauma
Tooth loss can also occur when a tooth is knocked out due to injury or an accident. When a tooth is lost, the surrounding teeth may shift in their foundations and move into the empty space.

Treating Malocclusion
Problems with teeth alignment are much easier to treat when attended to early on. Orthodontic treatment to correct malocclusion will not only give you a better smile – it will improve your oral health by lowering the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. In some cases treatment can also improve speech patterns and facial balance. If you or a member of your family suffers from malocclusion, call us to set up a consultation about the best way to address your needs.