What is a Malocclusion?

A malocclusion is an incorrect relationship between the maxilla (upper arch) and the mandible (lower arch), or a general misalignment of the teeth.  Malocclusions are so common that most individuals experience one, to some degree.  The poor alignment of the teeth is thought to be a result of genetic factors combined with poor oral habits, or other factors in the early years.

Moderate malocclusion commonly requires treatment by an orthodontist.  Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in the treatment of malocclusions and other facial irregularities.

The following are three main classifications of malocclusion:

  • Class I – The occlusion is typical, but there are spacing or overcrowding problems with the other teeth.

  • Class II – The malocclusion is an overbite (the upper teeth are positioned further forward than the lower teeth).  This can be caused by the protrusion of anterior teeth or the overlapping of the central teeth by the lateral teeth.

  • Class III – Prognathism (also known as “underbite”) is a malocclusion caused by the lower teeth being positioned further forward than the upper teeth.  An underbite usually occurs when the jawbone is large or the maxillary bone is short.

Reasons for treating a malocclusion

A severe malocclusion may lead to skeletal disharmony of the lower face.  In a more extreme case, the orthodontist may work in combination with a maxillofacial dentist to reconstruct the jaw.  It is never too late to seek treatment for a malocclusion.  Children and adults alike have completed orthodontic realignment procedures and have been delighted with the resulting even, straight smile.

Here are some of the main reasons to seek orthodontic treatment for a malocclusion:

  • Reduced risk of tooth decay – A malocclusion often causes an uneven wear pattern on the teeth.  The constant wearing of the same teeth can lead to tooth erosion and decay.

  • Better oral hygiene – A malocclusion can be caused by overcrowding.  When too many teeth are competing for too little space, it can be difficult to clean the teeth and gums effectively.  It is much easier to clean straight teeth that are properly aligned.

  • Reduced risk of TMJ – Temporomandibular jaw syndrome (TMJ) is thought to be caused by a malocclusion.  Headaches, facial pains and grinding teeth during sleep all result from the excessive pressure to the temporomandibular joint.  Realigning the teeth reduces pressure, and eliminates these symptoms.

How is a malocclusion treated?

A malocclusion is usually treated with dental braces.  The orthodontist takes panoramic x-rays, conducts visual examinations and bite impressions of the whole mouth before deciding on the best course of treatment.  If a malocclusion is obviously caused by overcrowding, the orthodontist may decide an extraction is the only way to create enough space for the realignment.  However, in the case of an underbite, crossbite or overbite, there are several different orthodontic appliances available, such as:

  • Fixed multibracket braces – This type of dental braces consists of brackets cemented to each tooth, and an archwire that connects each one.  The orthodontist adjusts or changes the wire on a regular basis to train the teeth into proper alignment.

  • Removable devices – There are many non-fixed dental braces available to treat a malocclusion.  Retainers, headgear and palate expanders are amongst the most common.  Retainers are generally used to hold the teeth in the correct position whilst the jawbone grows properly around them.

  • Invisalign® – These dental aligners are removable and invisible to the naked eye.  Invisalign works in much the same way as fixed dental braces, but do not impact the aesthetics of the smile.  Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®.

If you have any questions about malocclusions, please contact our office.

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Testimonials

Dr. Leong is an amazing dental professional. I've been seeing her for a number of years and she has always been effective, responsive, personable and caring. She managed my Invisalign process and did a great job from start to finish. She's very gentle so pain is never in the equation during my visits with her. She's also just a wonderful person. I consider her both my dentist and my friend. I would recommend her to anyone who's looking for a skilled dental professional.

Linda S. June 10, '17

I have been consistently happy with how Dr. Leong and her staff have cared for my teeth. AND, I've had A Lot of Work for Dr. Leong to do with my teeth! Shortly after my first cleanings, I had cavities to fill, then a molar cracked and I had to get a crown, which Dr. Leong did really well (better than my last dentist for sure!)... Given these positive experiences, I trusted Dr Leong to create Veneers for 8 of my upper front teeth, to totally transform my smile! I am very happy with my smile, get lots of compliments, and have confidence that the work will last me a long time (probably longer than my teeth would on their own... She not only did expert work to prepare my veneers and my teeth, but she also went above and beyond to make sure everything fit and felt right for me.

Matt Apr. 9, '15

Dr. Leong is hands down the best dentist I've ever had. She is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. She educated me about the right way to take care of my teeth without being pushy or judgmental. She explained everything she was doing very thoroughly so that I understood my own health better. She never made me feel rushed and she was never pushy trying to sell me dental work I didn't need, which has happened to me many times with other dentists. She and her staff were top notch.

My appointment was exactly on time and Anna at the front desk had already gotten my insurance information without me having to fill out anything. Everything was very well organized and we started my exam right away.

S. Wang Jan. 06, 15

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Wanda S. Leong, DDS 291 Geary Street, Suite 300 San Francisco, CA. 94102 Phone: 415-433-6825
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