If you suffer from malocclusion, don’t worry.
This common dental problem, also called malocclusion, can be fixed with orthodontic treatment or braces.
Malocclusion is often inherited. Other causes include the following:
Abnormally shaped or impacted teeth.
Misaligned or malformed jaw
Cleft lip and palate
Prolonged use of a pacifier or feeding bottle in childhood
Thumb sucking, sucking finger or lower lip, tongue thrusting in childhood
Breathing through the mouth in childhood
Injuries that result in the misalignment of the jaw
Improper dental restorative procedures in childhood
Gingivitis (gum disease)
Early loss of milk teeth
“A misaligned or malformed jaw can also cause a misaligned bite. They can occur in any or all three dimensions. Generally it can express as protruding jaws, a lower jaw slanted to one side or an open bite,” says Dr Lim.
Why should malocclusion be fixed?
Misaligned teeth is associated with psychological and physical problems. Misaligned teeth can:
Lead to self-consciousness and poor self-esteem
Affect a person’s speech, e.g. can cause a lisp
Interfere with proper chewing of food during meals
Cause difficulties with proper brushing and flossing, increasing the risk of bacterial infection, tooth decay and gingivitis
“Dental health is the most important reason to have braces made as poorly aligned or misaligned teeth are difficult to keep clean,” says Dr Lim.
Diagnosis and treatment of malocclusion
Misaligned teeth are diagnosed and treated by an orthodontist, a specialist in the correction of malocclusion. The orthodontist will take x-rays and impressions of your teeth to determine the extent of the problem and the appropriate treatment option.
In mild cases of misaligned teeth, treatment might be prosthodontic in nature, involving tooth veneers, crowns, bridges or dentures. In the majority of cases, however, orthodontic treatment involving braces is required.
“There are many different types of braces, each suited to a particular type of problem. The best type of brace for you will be advised by the orthodontist depending on your teeth and your personal needs,” says Dr Lim.
Correct Malocclusion (Misaligned Teeth) With Braces
Fixed braces – metal and ceramic
In fixed braces, a bracket is attached to the front of each individual tooth with a special adhesive. The brackets, which can be made of metal or ceramic, are linked together by orthodontic wires. Fixed braces are suitable for severe cases of misaligned teeth.
Metal braces are the cheapest and most effective in fixing severely misaligned teeth. Ceramic braces look more natural than metal braces but cost more and take longer to straighten misaligned teeth.
These are virtually unnoticeable because of their clear colour, and can be removed during meals and while brushing teeth. Invisible aligners are suitable for less severe cases of misaligned teeth. They are a more expensive choice, but may provide an option for people worried about how they would look like with braces and who wish to enjoy eating without the hassle of having something in the mouth.
These are fixed metal braces attached to the back of the teeth rather that the front. They are thus ideal for adults or older teenagers who are concerned about the appearance of traditional fixed braces. Lingual braces are more expensive and harder to clean than regular fixed braces. Another disadvantage of lingual braces is that they can graze your tongue and affect your speech. Oral hygiene may become a bigger challenge.
How long does it take to treat?
Treatment with fixed braces typically takes 2 to 3 years. During this period, you will need to visit your orthodontist every 4-8 weeks.
“For the braces treatment to progress well, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene, brush after every meal and snack, and avoid hard, sticky foods,” says Ms Kimberly Chim Yi Xiang, Oral Health Therapist, NDCS.
After your braces are removed, you will be given retainers to wear, to hold your teeth in their new positions. Typically, retainers are worn for several years to prevent the teeth from reverting to their original positions.