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Tom C. Sexton, Tallahassee FL Pediatric Dentist, Thomasville GA Orthodontist Pediatric Dentist
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Mal - occlusion literally means "poor closing" or "bad bite". A bad bite can be caused by several factors:

Dental malocclusion

A dental malocclusion occurs when the teeth are not lined up properly, even though the jaws may be properly aligned.

normal bite face
crowded teeth
Dental maloclusion caused by crowding

Skeletal malocclusion

A skeletal malocclusion occurs when the upper and lower jaws don't line up correctly.

overbite face
overbite jaws
Overbite: Upper jaw protrutes or lower jaw recedes (or both).

underbite face
underbite jaws
Underbite: Lower jaw protrudes.

Bad Habits

Your teeth are not as fixed in place as you might think! Just as a constant breeze can cause a tree to grow at an angle, repetitive forces on your teeth can cause them to become "out of alignment."

  • Thumbsucking can lead to an Open Bite.
  • Tongue thrusting (pushing the tongue against the teeth when swallowing) can slowly, but surely, move the teeth out of alignment.
  • Fingernail biting, or habitually biting or chewing on most objects, can cause worn teeth.
  • Mouth breathing: Breathing primarily through the mouth instead of the nose can dry out the tissues of the mouth leading to swollen and irritated gums. Also, the unnatural jaw alignment of mouth breathing creates and imbalance that can lead to a malocclusion. If mouth breathing is caused by blocked nasal passages, the obstruction must be corrected to prevent a relapse.

Grinding Teeth (Bruxism)

Severe cases of grinding teeth (bruxism) can also change the occlusion. Most people who grind their teeth do so in their sleep and therefore may be unaware of the problem.

Missing Teeth

Primary ("baby") teeth that are prematurely lost due to decay or injury sometimes necessitate the use of a spacer to keep the surrounding teeth growing straight until the permanent tooth erupts to replace the missing tooth. If missing permanent teeth are not replaced with a prosthesis, the adjacent teeth can "tip" into the empty space and the opposing teeth can "super-erupt" (meaning they grow longer than is natural).

Correcting a malocclusion

Of course, more than one of the above factors may be involved, so it is important to obtain a professional evaluation. Left untreated, a malocclusion not only affects the patient's appearance, it can also lead to TMJ problems and an increased risk of decay and gum disease.

Dr. Sexton evaluates each individual case to determine the best course of action to prevent or cure the malocclusion. Visit our Orthodontics page to learn more about how early detection of malocclusions in children and the use of arch expanders can reduce and sometimes eliminate the need for braces!


© Copyright 2003 - Dental WebSmith, Inc., Tom C. Sexton, DMD, PA (Florida), and Tom C. Sexton, DMD, PA (Georgia). All rights reserved. Disclaimer: The information provided within is intended to help you better understand dental conditions and procedures. It is not meant to serve as delivery of medical or dental care. If you have specific questions or concerns, contact your health care provider.