Malocclusion or misalignment is when the upper and lower teeth don’t meet comfortably. Two of the most noticeable types of jaw misalignment are an overbite, where the upper teeth stick out, and an underbite, where the lower teeth sit in front of the upper teeth. A symptom of malocclusion is if you bite your cheeks or other areas inside your mouth. It can also cause jaw pain and headaches. The correct alignment allows for effective chewing and distribution of biting forces equally over all the teeth. When the condition is severe it can interfere with eating, breathing, sleeping, and speech, and cause discomfort and pain even when the jaw isn’t moving. If not corrected, malocclusion can even lead to broken teeth and even tooth loss.
There are several causes of malocclusion, including:
- Mismatch between jaw size and size of teeth
- Thumb sucking or tongue thrusting habit
- Premature loss of or missing teeth
Checking for malocclusion is a part of your dental exam. Depending on the severity, treatments may include orthodontics, cosmetic dentistry and surgery.