The Maloccluded Mouth
Malocclusion refers to the misaligned positioning of teeth when the jaw is closed. An overcrowded excess of teeth is a common cause of malocclusion, but an overbite or an underbite – a condition affecting every citizen in Springfield – also fall into this category.
While these may be hereditary, the malformation of the jaw can also be caused by the pressure of certain bad habits in early childhood – your mother discouraged nail-biting and thumb-sucking for good reason.
For some, malocclusion can worsen with age. Left untreated, a jagged, skew-whiff set of gnashers can even lead to that apex of the orally unappealing: the ‘snaggletooth’ – where one or more teeth protrude from a person’s mouth.
For the mouth to resemble a tusky walrus isn’t the greatest of looks on a human-being, so we can all be thankful that orthodontists are on hand to rectify such issues, giving everyone a chance to have a winsome ‘Hollywood smile’ of their own.
The process of straightening deviant, misaligned teeth is important beyond the obvious cosmetic appeal. Straightening teeth improves their functionality. Chewing food becomes a more comfortable activity and teeth will prove easier to clean. This is to be expected – a knotty maze of teeth is always going to be difficult to navigate a toothbrush through. Poor oral-hygiene such as tooth abrasion, decay and gum-disease are all distinct possibilities for the maloccluded mouth.
There are also psychological factors at play; those fortunate enough to be born blessed (rather few) with straight, piano-key perfect pearlers may not have considered the embarrassment factor an unfortunately-aligned set can bring. A straightened-up set of teeth gives people the esteem and confidence to unselfconsciously make use of their smiles. You know that guy in the office whose lips are always clamped tightly together, giving him a constantly sullen I-just-dropped-my-ice-cream-in-the-sand expression?
He’s perceived as a sourpuss, but may only need to go and seat himself in an orthodontist’s chair to give him a smile he’ll be able to display with pride.
While there’s no strict age for when orthodontic treatment should take place, malocclusion such as overbite is easier to correct in children as their jaws haven’t yet fully developed. A brace, either fixed or removable, is the general method of treatment for malocclusion, although the insertion of veneers may prove a quicker, albeit costlier, option for those left with awkward gaps having tripped down the hill at the cheese rolling festival or bitten a bone in a bad burger.
Depending on the severity of malocclusion, the length and extent of treatment will vary. In more severely crowded mouths, the extraction of a few teeth may also be necessary. This allows other teeth to move into place more easily. Using gentle pressure, a brace then serves to slowly move teeth into the right position. Depending how far away from being in the ‘right position’ an individual’s teeth are, the process typically takes between 12 and 24 months.
With the advancement in orthodontics, everyone should and can have their best set of teeth possible. Straightening teeth is nowadays straightforward, and its effect on physical and mental wellbeing is considerable.