Occlusion is the medical term for the contact, and the relationship between a person's upper teeth, known as the maxillary teeth, and his lower teeth, also called mandibular teeth. In simpler words, occlusion is the general term for biting, chewing, clenching, grinding, gnashing, or any mouth movement that closes the jaws together. It may seem like something unimportant and negligible, but a person's occlusion is an essential factor in maintaining a healthy oral condition, particularly the positioning, and the alignment of the teeth's occlusal surface (or chewing surface).
Occlusions come in three classes, depending on how a person's dentition come in contact during a bite, and a Class I occlusion is considered as normal or desired. The other two classes are considered as a malocclusion, which should be attended by a dentist or orthodontist immediately as they can lead to serious health issues.
Malocclusion, also known as "bad bite," is a dental condition where a person's bite is not normal. Any inconsistencies with a person's occlusion can be caused by numerous factors such as too many or too few teeth, crooked teeth alignment, unproportioned mouth and jaw, and deformities in the jaw such as cleft palate. It may also be developed from improper mannerisms, and habits such as thumb and finger sucking, mouth breathing and tongue thrusting.
A malocclusion can be classified into two types. Class II Malocclusion, known as the overbite, is when a person's lower teeth are positioned way behind his upper teeth when biting, almost reaching the gum lining. On the other hand, Class III Malocclusion, known as the cross bite or under bite, is when the edge of the lower dentition touches, or is in front of, the edge of the upper dentition.
Normally, the lower teeth should be just behind the upper teeth during a bite. When the upper and lower teeth come together, a light exchange of force occurs between them. Biting and chewing should require minimal effort, and a person should not experience discomfort or pain in his mouth if he has a normal occlusion. However, a person with malocclusion may feel a little uncomfortable with the positioning of his teeth when he bites, or he may need to exert a little more force.
Although it may not be noticed at first, a person with malocclusion will experience difficulty in chewing and speaking, and in the long run, may suffer from tooth damage, gum bleeding and facial pain.
A malocclusion does not only affect the teeth, but also the gums, jaws, facial muscles, and even the neck and head. The movement of the jaw is controlled by numerous facial muscles. If a person has a misaligned bite, some muscles may require additional force, which can cause strain and damage to the facial tissues and ligaments. A bad bite can be the reason behind tooth sensitivity, tooth movement and loss, jaw joint noises and jaw pain, chronic headaches and shoulder pains.
It is important to have a person's misaligned bite checked and assessed by a dentist near Rockville, MD for proper and immediate treatment. With proper care, and oral health maintenance, severe malaise caused by malocclusion will "bite the dust" and disappear.