Malocclusion Class System: What’s Your Type?
Are your teeth a little crooked? Is jaw pain a constant in your life? Or do you feel like people stare when you smile? If something seems a little "off" about your smile, you may have a malocclusion class I, II, or III. A malocclusion, or "bad bite," is the misalignment of teeth, which can cause a problem in the way your bite fits together. A malocclusion is often characterized by crooked or crowded teeth or an overlap in the jaw.
Occlusion refers to the perfect alignment of teeth, where the top teeth slightly overlap the bottom teeth and the cusps fit into the grooves of the teeth below. When any part of this structure is out of place, you have a malocclusion of teeth.
There are three different types of malocclusions, each divided into one of three malocclusion class systems: a Class I Malocclusion, Class II Malocclusion and Class III Malocclusion. Every malocclusion is divided into one of these classes to help your dentist properly diagnose and treat your problem.
Most people experience a malocclusion to some extent, but if you're not entirely sure whether you have a malocclusion class 1, 2 or 3, you may want to read on.
Malocclusion Class 1, 2 and 3
Your dentist or orthodontist will choose a category your malocclusion falls under after a thorough dental exam. Malocclusions are classed by the following symptoms:
Class I Malocclusion (Misaligned Teeth) - With a Class I Malocclusion, the jaw is in proper alignment but the teeth are crooked, crowded or have spacing in between. A Class I Malocclusion may also be signified by a slight overlap in teeth. This type of malocclusion is the most common.
Class II Malocclusion (Overbite) - You may have heard this type of malocclusion referred to as "buck teeth." A Class II Malocclusion is characterized by the top teeth significantly overlapping the bottom teeth. A Class II Malocclusion normally results from a larger top jaw or smaller bottom jaw than its counterpart.
Class III Malocclusion (Underbite) -- When the bottom teeth protrude beyond the top teeth, it's considered a Class III Malocclusion. A Class III Malocclusion is basically the opposite of a Class II Malocclusion, where the bottom jaw is larger than the top.
What’s a Crossbite?
Your malocclusion may also be referred to as a crossbite. Ideally, your upper (maxillary) teeth should rest on the outside cusps of your bottom (mandibular) back teeth when closed, with the front top teeth slightly overlapping the lower jaw. In a crossbite, the maxillary teeth touch the inside cusps of the mandibular teeth. A crossbite can affect just one tooth or your entire mouth and is often seen in the front or sides of the mouth.
How to Tell if You Have a Malocclusion Class 1, 2 or 3
When it comes to your bite, nobody's perfect. Most people display a Malocclusion Class 1, 2 or 3 to some extent. The severity of your malocclusion will depend on the type you have. Malocclusions range from extreme to minor, and not all malocclusions are noticeable.
If you're not sure whether you have a malocclusion of teeth, look for the following characteristics:
- Misaligned teeth, even if they are only slightly crooked
- Abnormal face structure from a Class II Malocclusion ("buck teeth") or Class III Malocclusion (protruding chin)
- Difficulty chewing
- Missing teeth, which could shift existing teeth or put pressure on them when eating
- Speech problems, including slurring, pronunciation problems or a lisp
- Frequent biting of the cheek or other areas of your mouth
- Mouth breathing due to not being able to completely close lips
- Impacted teeth
- Baby teeth that have not fallen out before permanent teeth erupt
- TMJ symptoms (jaw pain, a popping sound when you open or close your mouth or a limited range of jaw motion)
Some of these symptoms may be so minor that they could be hard to detect. Keep in mind that like any other dental problem, a malocclusion of teeth can only be properly diagnosed and treated by a dentist. If you're not sure whether you have a Malocclusion Class 1, 2 or 3, make an appointment with your dentist for an exam.
Does Your Malocclusion Require Treatment?
A malocclusion won't go away on its own. Fortunately, many types of malocclusions can be corrected with orthodontic treatment. Depending on the severity of your case, your dentist may need to refer you to an orthodontist for dental braces. Even if your malocclusion is minor, you may still need treatment. Crooked teeth from a Class I Malocclusion can be harder to clean, which could result in other dental problems such as tooth decay, periodontal disease or tooth loss.
Treating a malocclusion also relieves the strain that it can cause on the jaw, reducing the risk of breaking your teeth or developing temporomandibular joint disorder. If you already have TMJ symptoms as a result of a Class II Malocclusion or Class III Malocclusion, orthodontic treatment may help relieve your symptoms.
If you think you have a malocclusion class 1, 2 or 3, call us at 1-866-970-0441. We'll help you find a great dentist for all of your orthodontic needs.