Misaligned bite conditions are not all the same! In this article, we describe the different types of malocclusion and some correction options.

We’ve established some reasons that young children develop malocclusion, which can interfere with proper orthopedic development and growth. Are there differences in the kinds of malocclusion that children can develop?

There are. As we illustrate below, three different kinds of malocclusion exist.

  • About 60% of affected individuals have a class 1 malocclusion. In this condition, the dental arches are in relative alignment with the skull, but the teeth are crowded.
  • An overbite, also known as class 2 malocclusion, occurs when the lower jaw is underdeveloped. Among 32% or so of individuals with malocclusion have an overbite.
  • Class 3 malocclusion, in which the lower jaw is larger than the upper jaw, affects the remaining 8% of individuals with malocclusion.

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What kinds of treatment are available for the varying classes of malocclusion?

For many patients with class 1 malocclusion, we can create custom appliances to gradually expand the upper jaw and make space for the teeth to erupt properly. Later stages of the straightening process might involve different kinds of appliances or even braces, based on individual patient cases.

For class 2 and class 3 malocclusion cases, we may attempt to gradually adjust the bite to a class 1 condition, and then straighten the patient’s teeth as described above. In the past, class 3 malocclusion was frequently corrected with surgery, but for some patients, non-surgical treatment is now a possibility.

What is the process for bringing class 2 and class 3 malocclusion cases to class 1 status?

Different appliances can help us achieve this, and we determine it on an individual case basis. Because each case is different, we thoroughly evaluate each patient to determine the best way to accomplish our desired results.

If patients do not require surgery, are there approximate timeframes for correcting each type of malocclusion?

There really aren’t definable ranges. Treatment for these issues is so highly individualized that several factors—such as the severity of the case, the type of malocclusion, and the patient’s age—are always determining factors. For example, children’s growth is a factor, but obviously this does not apply to older patients.

If a malocclusion is left uncorrected, what are the health risks?

An improper bite can lead to the inability to chew properly, and sometimes to a change in the patient’s swallowing pattern. For some patients, snoring and sleep apnea and TMJ problems may also develop.

For patients who might be uncertain about undergoing the correction process, what do you advise?

We are happy to provide information about risks and warnings for patients with hesitation about correction. We also encourage patients to seek second opinions so that they can feel confident about making the best decisions. Learning as much as possible is important in these cases.

We thank Victor D. Woodlief, DMD for sharing this helpful information.