Malocclusion is the misalignment of teeth of upper or lower jaw or both jaws.
The literal meaning of word malocclusion is “bad bite” or “irregular bite”. Malocclusion may be present as crooked, crowded, protruding teeth, spacing between upper front teeth or generalized spacing between upper or lower teeth. It may affect a person’s appearance, speech, and/or ability to eat.
Gardiner, White and Leighton defined malocclusion as “A condition where there is a departure from the normal relation of teeth to other teeth in the same arch and/or to teeth in the opposing arch.”
It is a morphological variation and one of the most prevalent oral pathologies, next only to dental caries and periodontal diseases.
Malocclusion adversely affects the facial appearance of an individual, may cause psychological disturbances and have a negative effect on self- image. It increases the risk of caries, predispose to periodontal diseases, temporomandibular joint problems, speech defects and improper respiration. Worldwide data shows that malocclusion is more prevalent in whites than in black, more in developed countries than in developing countries, and more in urban as compared to rural populations.
It can be diagnosed during routine dental examination. If malocclusion is present, photographs, dental impressions, and x-rays are required for further assessment and treatment of the condition.
There are a number of procedures undertaken to prevent malocclusion. These procedures are covered under preventive orthodontics. Some of these procedures are as follows:
Misaligned teeth (Malocclusion) require orthodontic treatment. Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry which manages the growth and correction of dental and facial structures. Treatment may require removable or fixed appliances (commonly known as braces). Braces apply gentle and constant force to change tooth positions slowly and align them properly with the opposing teeth. Additional efforts and care is required to maintain oral hygiene while wearing braces. Rinsing, brushing and flossing should be done immediately after eating.
In case of crowding, extraction of one or more teeth may be required to create space and align the teeth. Space maintainers are required to maintain space for permanent tooth in place of prematurely lost tooth, until the permanent tooth is not erupted. Severe malocclusions or complicated cases may also require surgical intervention. Retainers are given to the patient to stabilize the teeth in the desired new position, after completion of the treatment. Sometimes night guards are given to prevent teeth grinding and to ease stress on jaws.