Malocclusion probably isn’t a word you’ve heard very frequently, unless you happen to keep company with an orthodontist or two! It’s a technical term that describes what happens when teeth and jaws that are mismatched, or misaligned, cause a person to have a bad bite. This is something that we see and correct regularly here at Ollins Orthodontics. When left untreated, malocclusions can result in a number of orthodontic issues, including:

  • crooked teeth
  • crowded teeth
  • protruding teeth
  • gum problems
  • temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD)
  • headaches
  • sleep disorders
  • changes in the cosmetic appearance
  • speech problems
  • difficulties with eating or chewing

There are several different types of malocclusions.  While some of them can be symptomless, others may be inconvenient and even painful. Let’s take a look at the most common types, the symptoms they can cause, and what Ollins Orthodontics can do to successfully treat them.

Three main classes of malocclusions

Class 1: This is the most common type of malocclusion. It is characterized by the upper teeth slightly overlapping the lower ones in what would be an otherwise normal bite.

Class 2: This malocclusion consists of an overbite, with the upper jaw and the upper teeth overlapping the lower jaw and teeth in an abnormal manner.

Class 3: This malocclusion consists of an underbite, which occurs when the lower jaw and lower teeth overlap the upper jaw and the upper teeth.

The different types of malocclusion


Overcrowding is an incredibly common orthodontic condition, and is probably the biggest reason we see adults seeking orthodontic treatment. Overcrowding is often due to a lack of space, resulting in teeth that are crooked and overlap.


Spacing issues can occur between two or more teeth, and are commonly caused by prematurely missing teeth, small teeth, tongue thrusting, and extended thumb sucking. If there is too much space or too little space for teeth, it can result in crowding, which can later impact the eruption of the permanent teeth.

Open bite

In an open bite, the front teeth don’t overlap the lower teeth. If it’s the upper and lower front teeth that don’t overlap, it results in an opening that leads straight into the mouth. An open bite that affects the front teeth is known as an anterior open bite, but this problem can also occur on the sides of the mouth.


This malocclusion causes the top teeth to extend past the bottom teeth horizontally. Having a protrusion like this can interfere with chewing food and speaking properly.


Some overlap of the lower front teeth is normal, but an increased overbite can cause your front teeth to bite down onto your gums, or your lower front teeth to bite into the roof of your mouth.

Underbite (or anterior crossbite)

When the lower front teeth are positioned much further forward than the upper front teeth, it results in an underbite, which is sometimes known as an anterior crossbite.


A malocclusion that occurs when your upper teeth bite inside your lower teeth. This can happen on one or both sides of your jaw, and can affect your front or back teeth.


Sometimes referred to as “gap teeth”, this is another term for the space that exists between two adjacent teeth, most commonly the front two teeth.

Impacted tooth

Impacted teeth are unable to erupt through the gum naturally. Treatment can include extraction, or we may choose to expose it to a brace can be fitted to the surface.

Missing tooth

Also known as hypodontia, this condition can occur as a result of trauma, or from something as simple as the improper development of the teeth.

Ollins staff with equipment

The most common causes of malocclusions

Most malocclusions are the result of inherited conditions. However, they can also occur due to certain conditions or habits. When these conditions or habits are allowed to continue, and when treatment is not sought to correct the resulting issues, they can lead to changes in the actual shape and structure of the jaw. One example of this is teeth that have too much or too little room to erupt, resulting in them drifting out of place over time. Some other common causes of malocclusions include:

  • tooth loss
  • prolonged use of a pacifier
  • prolonged thumb or finger sucking
  • cleft lip and palate
  • injuries and trauma
  • tumors in the mouth or jaw
  • bottle feeding
  • impacted tooth
  • lack of proper oral care
  • an airway obstructed by enlarged adenoids or allergies

Common symptoms of malocclusions

Depending on the type of malocclusion present, the associated symptoms can be nonexistent, mild, moderate, or severe. Some of the more common symptoms patients tend to experience can include:

  • misaligned teeth
  • discomfort when biting or chewing food
  • speech problems
  • difficulty breathing through the mouth
  • frequent biting of the tongue or cheeks
  • changes in the overall structure of the face

Dentists will check for malocclusions during regular check-ups, particularly in children, so even symptomless malocclusions can be caught with proper dental care. If your dentist feels as though your teeth are misaligned or your jaw seems distorted, you may be referred to an experienced orthodontist like our doctors, who will thoroughly examine your teeth and mouth. We will also take x-rays of your teeth and face, and go over your past medical history in order to identify any existing oral issues.

Just as regular dental visits can help identify dental problems before they become more serious, early and regular orthodontic evaluations can pinpoint potential orthodontic issues before problems become more severe and require more intensive treatment. It’s for this reason that The American Association of Orthodontists recommend every child have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of seven. Dental check-ups should commence around the time of a baby’s first birthday.

How malocclusions can be treated

Corrective treatment won’t always be necessary for a malocclusion, especially if it is minor enough that no symptoms are present. However, for moderate to severe malocclusions in any class, corrective treatment with orthodontics is often the best course of action to ensure a fully functional, beautifully aligned smile. This treatment may include tooth removal, braces or clear aligners, the use of retainers or oral splints, or possibly surgery. Braces, tooth extraction, and retainers or oral splints may be administered alone or simultaneously, depending on the specifics of the case.

When a malocclusion has been successfully treated, the benefits will often extend beyond a proper bite and more attractive smile. You may find that the teeth are easier to brush and floss, reducing the risk of cavities and tooth decay, and improving your general oral health. It also limits any strain placed on the teeth and jaw, lowering the potential of broken or chipped teeth. Many patients will even find that their TMD is eased or eliminated altogether.

Ollins Orthodontics Office

Oral health excellence with Ollins Orthodontics

Do you have a child who is around the right age for their first orthodontic exam? Have you ever suspected that you may be suffering from a malocclusion yourself? If so, our talented team would love to take a look and make sure everything is lining up as it should be! At Ollins Orthodontics, we’re proud to provide high-quality, individualized, affordable orthodontic care for families in Nutley and the surrounding communities. Our doctors have almost fifty years of combined experience, and our staff are all highly trained registered dental assistants (R.D.A.) This gives us the ability to offer an exceptional orthodontic experience from start to finish. Reach out to our conveniently located Nutley, NJ orthodontic office today to schedule a complimentary consultation with us. This is the perfect time to take the first steps toward a beautiful, healthy smile!