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Home > Dental Conditions > Malocclusion > Causes of Malocclusions and Bite Problems
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Causes of Malocclusions (Bite Problems)

Causes of malocclusions in genes; but habit also causes malocclusions.

You're doing what it takes to help prevent cavities and gum disease. But as much as you brush your teeth or floss, you're not going to be able to prevent every dental problem. Some dental problems aren't caused by plaque or tartar; instead, they may be hereditary or the result of injury or other environmental factors. One of the most common dental problems that may be unpreventable is a bite problem, which is known amongst dental professionals as a malocclusion.

The main cause of malocclusion is a difference between jaw and tooth size or between the size of the upper and lower jaw. Common types of bite problems include an overbite, underbite and crossbite, where your jaw does not align properly. Other causes of malocclusions include crooked, crowded and abnormally shaped teeth, which can affect the way your bite closes.

What Causes Malocclusions?

Most bite problems are genetic, meaning you inherited them from your parents or someone else in your family tree. But outside influences also causes malocclusions. We've broken down the causes of malocclusions according to both genetic and environmental factors:

Malocclusion Causes Part I: Pre-Existing Conditions

Hereditary plays a large part in whether you'll develop bite problems. While there's not much you can do to prevent these causes of malocclusions, you can look for their symptoms and start treatment. The earlier you catch bite problems, the easier they are to treat. Your dentist can tell you which of the following conditions may cause malocclusion:

Abnormal Jaw Size -- An abnormally sized or malformed jaw is one of the major causes of malocclusions known as overbites and underbites. For instance, if the lower jaw is smaller than the upper jaw, an overbite will form, while a larger lower jaw may result in an underbite.

Abnormally Shaped Teeth -- Sometimes the jaw size is fine, but the teeth may be too large or too small for the jaw. Teeth that are too large can cause overcrowding, while smaller teeth could create spaces between them. Teeth that form an odd shape or grow in an angle can keep the jaw from lining up properly when you bite down.

Impacted Teeth -- When there's not enough room for wisdom teeth to appear, they can become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth may grow in at an angle, putting pressure on other teeth and causing them to shift.

Birth Defects -- Cleft lip and palate is a common birth defect that causes malocclusions.

Extra Teeth -- Although rare, some patients may develop an extra tooth or set of teeth, called supernumerary teeth. Scientists aren't quite sure why this happens, but it's believed to be hereditary, possibly forming if a tooth bud splits or there's hyperactivity in the dental lamina (the tissue that eventually forms a tooth) during development.

Baby Teeth that Don't Fall Out -- In cases where baby teeth are not lost prior to the eruption of adult teeth, patients can also experience overcrowding and shifting of the teeth. Adult teeth that grow in behind baby teeth are a typical cause of malocclusion known as a crossbite.

Malocclusion Causes Part II: Environmental Factors

Of course, just because most causes of malocclusions come from hereditary factors doesn't mean you should just let nature take its course. There are several environmental factors that also causes malocclusions -- and in most cases, these situations are preventable:

Bad Oral Habits -- Thumb sucking, tongue thrusting and prolonged pacifier or bottle use can cause malocclusion in children.

Mouth Breathing -- Children who breathe through their mouths tend to position their tongue at the top of mouth, which can push teeth forwards or sideways.

Gum Disease -- Periodontal disease causes the gums to pull away from teeth, causing teeth to become loose and separate.

Missing Teeth -- Teeth lost to dental problems can cause irregular spacing between teeth, leaving room for surrounding teeth to shift and become crooked. Baby teeth that are lost too early also cause malocclusions in adult teeth.

Ill-fitting Restorations -- Dental crowns, fillings and other dental restorations that do not fit your bite structure can keep the jaw from closing correctly.

Mouth Injury -- Trauma or injury to mouth can misalign the jaw.

Mouth Tumors -- Mouth tumors could be environmental or hereditary, but considering that most oral cancer cases result from smoking, we've decided to list tumors in environmental factors. Whether benign or malignant, tumors of the mouth and jaw have also been known to be malocclusion causes.

Determining What Causes Malocclusions

Although most bite problems develop early in life, they may not become noticeable until adult teeth start to erupt. The American Dental Association recommends that all children have an orthodontic evaluation by age 7 to determine malocclusion causes and then plan treatment. As not all causes of malocclusions are obvious, it's important to visit the dentist regularly to check for changes and abnormalities in your smile.

If you think you have a malocclusion, talk to your dentist. There are several dental treatments available to correct bite problems to improve aesthetics and mouth function. A perfectly aligned smile is also much easier to take care of, which can help prevent future dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.

If you need a dentist for an orthodontic evaluation, call us at 1-866-970-0441.

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