Malocclusion is the dental term for misaligned teeth, a common condition affecting about 200,000 people in the United States every year. Many seek cosmetic solutions to feel better about their smiles, but there are also negative health consequences including pain and discomfort that result from improperly aligned teeth.
The most severe cases may require surgical treatment beyond orthodontics, such as orthognathic (corrective jaw) surgery. Portales dentists Dr. Peter L. Thompson and Dr. V. Matthew Pacheco would like to share some information about malocclusion, the effects it can have on oral health, and potential treatment solutions.
Occlusion refers to the alignment of your teeth, specifically the way your upper and lower teeth fit together. The way your upper and lower dental arches fit together is called your bite. If your upper teeth fit slightly over your lower teeth with the points of molars fitting the grooves of the molars directly opposite, you’ve got a healthy occlusion and bite. While the upper teeth keep us from biting our cheeks and lips, the lower teeth protect the tongue.
Malocclusion is often genetic. It presents in a variety of ways, ranging from differences in upper and lower jaw size to cleft lip or palate, which can result in overcrowded teeth or atypical bite patterns. Other causes of malocclusion include:
When teeth are not aligned properly, daily functions such as breathing, eating, and speaking may become much more challenging. Pain and discomfort can lead to headaches and TMJ dysfunction. Sleep apnea is also a potential consequence of malocclusion. Even tooth decay and gum disease are more likely when dental irregularities exist, simply because there tend to be more places for bacteria to hide when teeth are crooked.
Depending on the type of malocclusion you have, different treatments will be considered, including:
Orthognathic surgery corrects conditions of the jaw and face too severe to be treated with orthodontics alone, as correction requires surgical movement, modification, and realignment of bone. Conditions like these affect about 5% of the US population including, but not limited to, issues such as cleft palate, chronic jaw joint (TMJ) pain, facial injury, sleep apnea, and protruding or receding jaw.
While orthognathic surgery often improves a patient’s appearance, its true purpose is to solve functional problems with chewing, speaking, and breathing. Orthognathic surgery is often performed in conjunction with orthodontic treatment both before and after as part of a long-term treatment plan.
If you have any questions about malocclusion or orthodontic treatment, contact Peter L. Thompson, DDS today. We love to improve lives by creating healthy, confident, and functional smiles!
The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
After hours? Fill out this form and a member from our team will get back to you ASAP on the following business day!
“What a feeling – being able to smile any time I want without shielding my two front teeth with my hand anymore! I must admit, I didn’t know much about veneers until a friend of mine mentioned them to me. He piqued my curiosity, but it was only after I spoke to Dr. Thompson and his staff that I decided to go ahead with the procedure.
I have had horrible experiences with several previous dentists and the thought of extensive work in my mouth was not appealing to me. Especially because I have a very low tolerance for pain. I can honestly say that Dr. Thompson and his staff are one-of-a-kind, and truly the best out there! Not only are the very efficient and use state of the art procedures and materials, but they are compassionate and caring. I had never thought that a healthy smile would give me such a confidence boost, but it sure did! It used to be that people always told me that my eyes smiled when I spoke to them… Now I smile with much more than my eyes!”
“I first came to Dr. Thompson’s office in January of 2010. I had been having headaches due to muscular tension in my jaw. I suffer from a relatively rare genetic disorder called Amelogenesis imperfecta. This disorder affects the enamel formation in teeth, and I basically had no enamel on my teeth as a child and adult. Due to this I had to have all my teeth removed and replaced with dentures when I was only 25.
Dentures also present some problems: because I no longer had tooth roots in my jaw, my bone slowly began to deteriorate and atrophy, both in my upper and lower jaws. Eventually, by the age of 43, I developed severe migraine headaches due to how much my jaw had changed shape over time.
This is where Dr. Thompson came in. He diagnosed the problem quickly and told me that if I didn’t get implants soon my jaws would atrophy to the point where they could no longer support dentures or implants. Before getting implants, he was able to modify my dentures so my headaches went away within a matter of a day or so. What a relief!
Now, implants are expensive, but not as expensive as I thought they would be, and it is certainly better than the alternative of not having any teeth at all, dentures or otherwise. The implants had to be installed (for lack of a better term) over the course of 3 surgeries. The surgeries were completed in the mornings and I was sent home the same day.
Recovery was roughly 3-6 months between surgeries. It was over a year from the time I first visited Dr. Thompson until I got my final implants, but the final result has been great! My new implants are much more stable than my old dentures and I can now eat things that I never could before. I don’t have to fuss with using adhesive to secure my dentures anymore, and my headaches are a thing of the past! Plus my jaws have stopped shrinking due to the implants.
Dr. Thompson and his staff were very friendly and professional during the entire process. I have been to many dentists in the past, but Dr. Thompson is easily the best.”
“When I found Doctor Thompson, you could honestly say I was at my end. All hope of ever having a normal pain-free life was entirely out of reach and there was no way anyone could possibly help me. I had been repeatedly let down by doctors, specialists, and dentists I had been to. I was convinced these people were only there to hurt you and take your money, not actually sit down with you and help you!”
My teeth were beautiful when something really bad began to happen. My teeth began breaking and wearing away. I brushed and did everything I had always been taught to protect your teeth, but nothing seemed to be helping. I saw a billboard with Dr. Thompson. I cried to my husband every time I passed it…. I only wished that I could find someone who could be what he claimed to be. I passed that billboard many times and highly doubted the possibility that he could help me. The last dentist I had gone to hurt me so bad that I was not about to trust anyone else to touch me. So I lived with it.
The day came when decided I had to trust someone. I had just gone through two pregnancies that took all the nutrients I had, therefore speeding up the deterioration of my teeth. I lived in a dark blur of pain, looked at the ground when I spoke to people, and sipped on liquid Tylenol like it was water. ALL I wanted was to be able to be the best Mommy I could be. I was able to care for them and give them everything they needed, but I couldn’t do a lot of things. It was just too painful. I wanted more for my babies! I wanted them to see their Mommy feeling wonderful and able to look her best. I wanted to show them I could interact with other people and not be afraid.
That was all a dream until I finally broke down and decided that I would never know if Dr. Thompson could help me if I didn’t ask. So, one day in 2010, I made the call. The call that would change my perspective on people and their ability to help others. That day I met Micah, and what an angel she was for me! They knew I was terrified and they did their very best to comfort me. No one can truly understand what you are going through until they have lived it, but they tried harder than anyone I had ever seen. My report was as I knew it would be, they would not be able to save my teeth. I would have to have them all removed.
At 28 years old, it’s not exactly the highlight of your life, but when you have been in so much pain and a dentist looks at you, almost with tears in his eyes and tells you that he is going to help you, it will bring life back to your view on your situation. I realized at that moment that these people were my friends and they were going to be there all the way.
One short visit and I walked away with a new mouth. At first, it was totally foreign to me to have a complete set of teeth in my mouth. It was painful, and was not easy having to relearn a lot of things all over again. With their support and confidence, they helped me believe I could do everything right again. I am writing this a year later and I could not be happier with MY smile. I have my complete set of dentures with two implants on bottom that allow the bottom denture to snap in without any troubles at all. It was a very hard road, but one that I have no regrets taking. I have my new beautiful teeth…. I can smile, talk, sing, laugh, and eat. Most importantly I feel amazing. I can be the wife that my husband deserves and the Mommy that my two little girls need me to be, energetic and fun!
There is no greater feeling in the world than knowing I will never hurt like that ever again. Everything was worth it for me. I don’t mind sharing to the world that Dr. Thompson and his team were the most dedicated and outstanding people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They took care of me, and I will forever be grateful that I called them.”