Occlusion refers to the alignment of the teeth and the way the upper and lower teeth fit together (the correct name is occlusion). The upper teeth should fit slightly over the lower teeth. The tips of the molars should fit into the grooves of the opposite molar, leaving the cusps of the upper molars outside those of the lower ones.
The upper teeth prevent you from biting your cheeks and lips, and the lower teeth protect your tongue.
Causes of malocclusion
A malocclusion can be established due to hereditary, genetic and/or acquired causes, among other factors. Basically, it is generated by a lack of proportionality between the size of the maxilla or jaw and the size of the teeth. It can lead to abnormal crowding, spacing or bite patterns, for example. Inadequate jaw shapes, over/under development and birth defects such as cleft lip and palate can also be causes of malocclusion, among other aspects.
Other causes include:
• Pernicious habits such as thumb sucking, interposing the tongue when speaking or swallowing, using a pacifier beyond 3 years of age, and prolonged use of a bottle.
• Extra teeth, prematurely lost teeth (deciduous or permanent), impacted teeth or atypically shaped teeth
• Poor anatomy dental restorations, crowns, dental appliances, retainers or braces that are ill-fitting or misused
• Bone fractures in the maxilla or mandible that have not been treated promptly and appropriately.
• Tumors or cysts in oral soft tissues or jaws
There are different categories of malocclusion:
• Class I malocclusion is the most common. The bite is relatively normal, but there are variations in the position of the teeth.
• Class II malocclusion occurs when the distance between the upper and lower teeth is greater than it should be; this may be due to a forward position of the maxilla, a retracted position of the mandible, or a combination of both.
• Class III malocclusion is the opposite of Class II; here the lower teeth are located in front of the upper ones due to a forward position of the mandible, a retruded position of the maxilla or a combination of both; as in class II, it is not only due to a problem of position, but could also be due to size.
What to observe in a malocclusion?
The signs and symptoms of malocclusion can be:
• Improper alignment of the teeth
• Lack of harmony in the face and smile
• Difficulty or discomfort when biting or chewing
• Speech difficulties (rare), including lisping
• Labial incompetence (difficulty closing the lips with the passive muscles)
• Inability to bite food properly (open bite)
Exams and tests for malocclusion
Most tooth alignment problems can be diagnosed by a dentist or orthodontist during a routine exam.
You may need dental x-rays, head and/or skull x-rays, and photographs. Often, diagnostic models, physical or digital, of the teeth are required to complement the diagnosis of the problem.
Treatment of dental malocclusion in Panama
Very few people have perfect dental alignment. However, most of the problems are minor.
Malocclusion is the most common reason for consulting an orthodontist.
The goal of treatment is to correct the position of the teeth and deliver a functional bite.
Correction of moderate or severe malocclusion can:
• Facilitate teeth cleaning and reduce the risk of cavities and periodontal diseases (gingivitis or periodontitis).
• Eliminate stress on teeth, joints and muscles. This decreases the risk of fracturing a tooth and can reduce the symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
Dental Malocclusion treatments in Panama may include:
• Orthotics in growing patients
Extraction of one or more teeth when the problem is crowding.
Movement of teeth or groups of teeth with the help of devices such as brackets or mini screws
• Restoration of rough, worn or irregular teeth.
• Rarely, surgical reshaping of the relationship of the jaws to each other and to the craniofacial structure is required.
When to contact a medical professional
Call your dentist if you develop toothache, mouth pain, or other new symptoms during orthodontic treatment.
If you want to book a consultation with our orthodontists to evaluate your case of dental malocclusion in Panama, contact us at Dental One, Town Center Costa del Este.