Besides the obvious external appearance of your teeth and how your top and bottom teeth line up, how do you know you have malocclusion or a “bad bite?” And what sort of treatment options are out there?

First of all, let’s look at what causes malocclusion. According to WebMD, “Malocclusion is usually caused by problems with the shape or size of the jaw or teeth… If a child’s jaw is small, the teeth may grow in crowded or crooked. If there’s too much space in the jaw, the teeth may drift out of place. Other causes of malocclusion include thumb-sucking, pacifier use, and tooth loss. Long-term mouth breathing seems to be linked to malocclusion too, but how isn’t exactly clear.”

Some symptoms of malocclusion include:

  • An altered appearance of the face
  • Pain or discomfort when biting or chewing
  • Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose
  • Speech problems, such as a lisp

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should seek out the proper care as soon as possible. Depending on how severe your bite is, you may need braces, a tooth extraction, or (in rare cases) surgery. The worst thing you can do for a bad bite, though, is ignore it. Over time, malocclusion can worsen and result in a TMJ disorder, so you want to get treatment as soon as you see the signs.