Bite Watch: What you need to know about Crooked Teeth and Misaligned Bites
Do you always bite your cheeks, tongue or lips inadvertently? Do these self-inflicted bites happen to members of your family? Chances are something’s off kilter in the alignment of your teeth. Read on if this is happening to you.
Crooked teeth and misaligned bites carry more than embarrassment and broken smiles; they can also lead to more serious health concerns like tooth decay and periodontal disease if left untreated. Crooked teeth are a type of malocclusion, an orthodontic problem that also means “bad bite”. Under the malocclusion umbrella are crowded teeth, missing or extra teeth and misaligned jaws like crossbite, overbite, underbite, or open bite.
There is no single reason as to why malocclusion occurs. Like the juvenile quote, “It happens”, crooked teeth can stem from your jaw being too small for all your teeth (or their size), premature loss of baby and adult teeth because of poor oral hygiene and even because your teeth are developing and moving in the wrong direction/position and get rotated or twisted out of place.
Malocclusion is typically hereditary, just like eye color, hair color and your general appearance. Although many cases of crooked teeth are inherited, the shape and structure of the jaw can be altered by some external conditions and factors, some of which are beyond your control. These include:
· Prolonged bottle feeding and pacifier use after the age of three
· Thumb sucking (in young children)
· Injuries that result in the misalignment of the jaw (like a punch to the face)
· Mouth or jaw tumors
· Cleft lip and palate
· Abnormally shaped or impacted teeth
· Poor dental hygiene that results in premature tooth loss
· Dental fillings, crowns, or braces that don’t fit properly
Rule of thumb: A good and aligned bite would be when the teeth of your upper jaw slightly overlap the teeth of your lower jaw and the upper and lower molars fit snugly together when you close your mouth or grit your teeth. Any deviation from ideal occlusion (misaligned teeth) and your teeth won’t be able to perform its vital functions properly and may cause health problems down the road. So, if your bite is even slightly off this description, go see an orthodontist ASAP.
Symptoms and Treatment Options for Malocclusion
Depending on the severity of the jaw and tooth misalignment, the basic symptoms of malocclusion are:
· Improper alignment of the teeth (overbite, crossbite, etc)
· The appearance of the face may be altered, like one side of the jaw may be lower than the other one
· Discomfort and pain when biting and chewing
· Inadvertently biting tongue, cheeks or lips
· Speech impediments, like developing a lisp
· Preference for breathing through the mouth and not the nose
Don’t worry! There are a lot of treatment options for crooked and misaligned teeth. In the most severe cases, surgery to reshape or shorten the jaw and the removal of several teeth to correct overcrowding issues are done before metal braces or wires and plates are used to stabilize the jaw bone. Reshaping, bonding and capping teeth are also an option.
For mild to moderate malocclusion, you can ask your dentist about a revolutionary treatment called Invisalign. Invisalign treatment uses clear plastic aligners made of BPA free, transparent and comfortable plastic that are custom molded to fit your teeth. These clear aligners are nearly invisible when worn, and they gradually move and align your teeth back to their intended position gently, with no pain or irritation because it doesn’t use any wires and brackets that can poke your cheeks and lips.
Invisalign clear aligners are removable, so you won’t have to worry about any food restrictions. Just remove them when you’re eating and put them back on when you’re done. These are worn 22 hours each day (including sleeping) and the patient has to change them every two weeks until the treatment period is over.
So, if you suspect you or any family member is suffering from malocclusion, don’t wait! Make an appointment with your dentist because prolonging this dental problem can cause future health issues because a recent study has linked tooth decay and periodontal disease to diabetes, heart disease, stroke and pneumonia.