If you have malocclusion, your teeth are not in proper alignment and may require orthodontic treatment. Malocclusion comes in many forms, including overcrowding, overbite, underbite, crossbite, and open bite. The severity of your dental misalignment will often dictate the appropriate form of treatment, whether that is traditional metal braces, ceramic braces, or Invisalign®. Dr. Sooyeon Ahn is an acclaimed orthodontic specialist providing effective treatment to the McLean, VA, community. After carefully evaluating your dental needs and goals, she can design your custom treatment plan.
What is a Malocclusion?
Malocclusion refers to the alignment of your teeth. In some cases, malocclusion is minor and only causes cosmetic issues. However, more severe forms of dental misalignment can affect your daily function, making it challenging to eat comfortably and speak clearly. Misalignment can also make it difficult to properly brush and floss your teeth, which can result in tooth decay or even tooth loss. The effects of a misaligned bite extend may even beyond the smile, exacerbating conditions like temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Patients struggling with this condition may experience jaw pain, neck and back pain, and chronic headaches.
Misalignment can make it difficult to properly brush and floss your teeth, which can result in tooth decay or even tooth loss.
Malocclusion is often hereditary. The size and shape of your jaw or even a difference between the jaw and tooth size can force teeth out of alignment. However, a number of other factors can also come into play, including:
- Childhood habits, such sucking your thumb or using pacifiers
- Abnormalities in the teeth, such as extra teeth, lost teeth, impacted teeth, or misshapen teeth
- Ill-fitting dental restorations or appliances, such as fillings, crowns, or retainers
While the effects of genetics are unavoidable, many other causes are preventable or treatable. By seeking regular dental treatment, you can potentially avoid these complications before they affect your oral health.
Types of Malocclusion
During your consultation, Dr. Ahn can review the common types of malocclusions and explain the form or forms you have. These may include:
- Crowding or Spacing Issues
- This occurs when there is too much or too little room for teeth to fit comfortably in your smile.
- Open Bite
- For an optimal bite, the upper jaw should protrude slightly over the lower jaw. An open bite occurs when the upper and lower front teeth do not overlap, leaving an opening between the two.
- In this situation, the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth.
- This type of malocclusion arises when the lower front teeth protrude farther than the upper front teeth.
- Normally, the upper teeth rest slightly outside the lower teeth. You may have a crossbite if any or all of the upper teeth fall inside your lower teeth.
It is possible for a single patient to have one form of malocclusion, or multiple forms simultaneously. The type and combination will determine your treatment.
Effective Treatment Options
Patients can take advantage of several orthodontic options to realign their bite, including:
- Orthodontic Devices
- Dr. Ahn may recommend traditional or ceramic braces to correct the alignment of your teeth, palatal expanders to create more space for crowding issues, or retainers to maintain the results of your treatment. For qualifying patients, Invisalign can provide a discreet alternative to metal braces.
- Tooth Removal
- If you are struggling with overcrowding, extraction can improve your overall oral health. We will only recommend tooth extraction when necessary.
- In rare cases, surgical intervention is needed to reshape or stabilize the jaw.
Treatment of malocclusions can last anywhere from six months to two or more years. This timeline depends on your treatment plan, the extent of misalignment, and in the case of Invisalign, your commitment to wearing your aligners. As most malocclusions develop in childhood or adolescence, early orthodontic treatment is often the most effective way to preserve the structure of your child's smile. While orthodontic treatment is often successful in adults, it can take longer because the jaw is inherently less flexible.
Achieve Your Best Smile
Knowing which forms of malocclusion are affecting the health of you or your child is an essential component to treatment. If you are interested in learning more about your options, contact us online anytime or call (703) 356-7001 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ahn.