Malocclusion is a condition where the upper and the lower teeth do not align properly. This condition is sometimes called poor bite. It is primarily caused by issues with the orientation and size of the jaw and teeth since childhood.
Most of the time, minor cases of malocclusion, like having a slight overbite, do not need treatment. However, if the malocclusion is severe, orthodontic treatment and surgery is necessary.
Causes of Malocclusion
Aside from genetics and inherent jaw structure, malocclusion tends to occur in thumb-sucking, finger-sucking, pacifier-using children. These habits may develop a poor bite in children since the upper teeth will be gradually pushed outward while the lower teeth are pushed inward.
Typically, malocclusion is diagnosed by a licensed orthodontist. He or she will inspect the mouth, jaw and teeth. Plaster tooth models, facial and dental X-rays may be required for the orthodontist to make an accurate diagnosis.
A diagnosis of malocclusion can be made in children as young as 7 years old. It is best to treat malocclusion while still young since the bones are not yet fully developed during this stage.
In children, malocclusion is treated with growth modification that will match their growth spurts. For two years, the child will need to wear dental appliance and braces that will align his teeth and jaw bones.
In adults, malocclusion is usually treatable with a cosmetic procedure, which can help align the teeth. Braces are commonly used for teeth alignment issues while jaw surgery is required if the malocclusion case is severe.
In both cases, children and adults will need to wear retainers after the treatment period. The retainers are used to ensure that the teeth do not drift back to their previous positions.
How Long Does Malocclusion Treatment Last?
For children, orthodontic treatment for malocclusion can last for about two years. It is recommended that children wear braces during their middle school years, and be done with the treatment before they enter high school.
For adults, malocclusion treatment can take at least two years or more. If your orthodontist recommends jaw surgery for you, healing and rehabilitation may take longer. Discuss with your dentist the course of treatment, and your possible options. You can also seek for a second opinion from another orthodontist if the present one recommends jaw surgery. This way, you will have an informed decision on which treatment plan to choose.
The cost for treating malocclusion can add up over the years since treatment will take at least two years. This also means repeated dentist visit fees over the course of the treatment period. Some dental insurance plans cover part of the cost of the treatment, but you still need to fork over some money from out of your own pocket.