Despite lacking toothbrushes or other modern oral hygiene tools, hunter-gatherers were found to have a surprisingly “perfect” bite according to Science Daily. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were believed to have better bites than early farmers since they ate “hard” food that required a lot of chewing, such as raw vegetables and meat. In contrast, early farmers ate “softer” food that didn’t require much chewing, resulting in their jaws becoming too small for their teeth over time.
Today, “bad bites”, also known as malocclusions, affect as many as one in five people. Although many people are able to live with misaligned bites quite well, others often experience problems with speaking, chewing, and sleeping normally due to this condition. Thankfully, dentists can easily treat a malocclusion with orthodontics and surgery, depending on how severe the patient’s case is.
What Is A Malocclusion?
The term ‘occlusion’ refers to how your teeth are aligned. In a healthy occlusion or bite, your teeth should fit easily in your mouth without any wide spaces or crowding. Your upper teeth should also overlap your lower teeth just a bit so that the points of your upper molars can fit in the grooves of your lower molars comfortably. If your bite doesn’t fit this description, you might have a malocclusion.
Malocclusions, more popularly known as “bad bites”, occur when your upper and lower teeth don’t meet properly. Misaligned teeth can affect not just the way you eat, but also how you talk and sleep every day. Left untreated, more serious cases of malocclusion can lead to gum disease, problems with your jaw joints and muscles, tooth decay, sleep disorders, and headaches.
Types of Malocclusions
Any deviation from the ‘ideal bite’ is known as a malocclusion. Dentists identify malocclusions according to three main types:
- Class 1: This is where your upper teeth overlap (or go over) your lower teeth quite a bit, but not to the point of causing an abnormal bite. Class 1 malocclusions can also include minor cases of overcrowding or diastema (gaps between teeth). Bites that fall under this category don’t often cause major problems with chewing or speaking, although they can become a source of embarrassment for some people.
- Class 2: Also known as “overbites”, class 2 malocclusions occur when your upper teeth overlap your lower teeth way too much, leading to major problems with teeth alignment, as well as chewing and speaking normally. Dentists recognize this type of bite as more than just a cosmetic problem, and as such, they recommend orthodontic treatment for it. In other words, if you suffer from this type of bite, your dentist might recommend repairing it with braces or other necessary treatments.
- Class 3: In contrast to the first two types of malocclusions, which involve your upper teeth overlapping your lower teeth, class 3 malocclusions occur when your lower teeth extend further than your upper teeth, leading to an underbite. You can experience not only problems with chewing and speaking but also facial muscle pain due to how severely misaligned your lower and upper jaws are.
Causes of Malocclusions
Most cases of misaligned teeth lead back to genetics, birth defects, tongue thrusting, and childhood thumb or pacifier sucking habits. You can also end up with a malocclusion when you lose teeth early due to accidents or oral health problems. In addition, people with impacted wisdom teeth may also experience problems with malocclusion.
How Are Malocclusions Treated?
Malocclusions are usually treated with orthodontics. Although most people opt for braces, some prefer using Invisalign clear trays and other removable orthodontic devices. Depending on the severity of your case, your dentist may have to extract a permanent tooth to eliminate crowding and make room for impacted teeth. In very rare cases, a maxillofacial surgeon may have to perform surgery on your upper or lower jaw to achieve proper alignment.