Malocclusion (or bad bite) and teeth misalignment are extremely common and treatable problems for many individuals. Failure to seek care for the improper alignment of the teeth and jaws can result in poor aesthetic and impaired chewing, biting and speaking functions. Malocclusion can also cause a wide range of dental and physical problems including:
Tooth Loss and Decay – Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a common, progressive condition which eventually results in severe tooth decay, bone erosion and tooth loss. If teeth are crowded and your hygiene routine is impaired, you are at higher risk for decay and soft tissue infection.
TMJ – Temporomandibular joint disorder is the overstraining of the jaw joint due to the improper alignment of arches. Symptoms of this disorder include neck pain, jaw pain, earache and grinding teeth. Jaw alignment can be improved with the application of orthodontic treatments.
Uneven Tooth Wear – Malocclusion can cause the teeth to wear in an unusual pattern. Instead of sharing the wear evenly, some teeth are forced to perform additional rigorous chewing and biting functions. Not only do these worn teeth look unappealing, they may need to be restored with dental prosthetics.
How Teeth are Properly Repositioned
There are many orthodontic treatment methods that can be employed to move and realign the teeth. Orthodontic devices that correct irregularities are generally divided into two categories: fixed and removable appliances.
The most common type of fixed appliance is traditional dental braces. These appliances utilize brackets made from a variety of materials, including metal and tooth-colored ceramic, which are bonded to individual teeth and linked by an archwire. Orthodontic elastic bands may also be applied to the braces to add additional pressure to specific teeth.
At every orthodontic adjustment appointment, the elastic bands and wires are gently tightened until the teeth have moved into ideal alignment. In the case of overcrowding, a tooth or several teeth may need to be extracted prior to placement of braces, in order to maximize available jawbone space.
There are several different types of removable devices an orthodontist may recommend, based on a thorough examination, bite impressions and a diagnosis of current conditions.
Invisalign® – Invisalign braces use a series of clear plastic trays to gently move the teeth. Every few weeks, new trays are provided to ensure that continual gentle pressure is exerted on the teeth.
Headgear – Headgear is a dental appliance attached to a metal framework and is most commonly used to correct growth and developmental problems. When upper jaw growth is significantly slower than lower jaw growth, reverse pull headgear may be needed. Conversely, when lower jaw growth is delayed, high pull headgear may be used to properly align the teeth.
Retainers – Retainers are usually used after braces to maintain the proper alignment. Retainers ensure that the jawbone forms into the desired position and helps straight teeth remain that way over time.
If you have questions or concerns about the realignment of your teeth, please contact your dental professional.