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Rye Smiles for Life
10614 Warwick Avenue, Ste A, Fairfax, VA 22030

Misalignment of Teeth and Bites: Malocclusions

A visit to the dentist’s or orthodontist’s office may lead to a discussion about a malocclusion, which is the technical term for a misalignment of the teeth and bite. The opposite of malocclusion is occlusion, which is the case when the upper and lower teeth align correctly to fit together. With occlusion, the upper teeth fit just over the lower teeth, and the molar points of the top teeth fit into the grooves of the molars immediately below them. Several different types of malocclusions exist, each describing a different dental issue. Malocclusions occur according to each specific type of dentistry issue, and some people may experience more than one malocclusion simultaneously. Malocclusions are usually hereditary, although they can sometimes happen due to a specific activity, such as thumb or finger sucking or a trauma such as a blow to the mouth. Malocclusions might also involve birth defects, such as cleft lip and cleft palate. The good news is that these dental problems are fixable with proper treatment. Even a severe malocclusion that results in sleep apnea is treatable with various options.


Overcrowding is a common dental problem that is characterized by a lack of space in the mouth. The result of overcrowding is crooked and oftentimes overlapping teeth. When adults seek orthodontic treatment, it’s often for overcrowding issues.


Someone with an overjet malocclusion will have the top teeth extending past the bottom teeth horizontally. While this may sound like an overbite, the two issues are distinctly different. An untreated overjet could cause injuries and issues with speech and eating.


People typically have a tiny bit over overlap of the front upper teeth over the front lower teeth. Some people have more than the standard overbite, however. When this happens, an overbite malocclusion may be present. Overbites can lead to issues with the front teeth biting down into the gums.


A crossbite malocclusion happens when the upper teeth come down to bite inside the lower front teeth. Sometimes a crossbite happens on just one side of the mouth, or it may be present on both sides. Crossbites may impact either the front or the back teeth.

Anterior Crossbite (Underbite)

With an anterior crossbite, an underbite is occurring. Instead of the front teeth coming down over the lower teeth, the front teeth come down inside of the lower teeth. Anterior crossbites affect the front teeth.


A spacing malocclusion is present when excessive spaces exist between teeth. Sometimes a spacing problem might just involve two teeth, or it could involve many of the teeth. Causes of spacing issues may be a missing tooth or teeth, teeth that are abnormally small, thumb sucking, and tongue thrusting.


Someone with a space between the two top front teeth has a diastema. This type of malocclusion is common, and it is also very resolvable with treatment. Some people want to have a diastema fixed, while others opt to leave it untreated.

Impacted Tooth

If a tooth fails to erupt through the gum in standard fashion, it would be an impacted tooth. Impacted teeth can happen in the front teeth or the back teeth. Treating an impacted tooth may involve pulling it or exposing the tooth to align it with the other teeth.

Hypodontia (Missing Tooth)

The technical term for a missing tooth is hypodontia. Children naturally experience hypodontia as they lose primary teeth so that adult teeth can grow in. Hypodontia might also occur as a result of trauma, issues with development, or dental problems. A denture or bridge might be necessary to treat some cases of hypodontia.

Open Bite

Sometimes a space remains between the top front teeth and the bottom front teeth when the teeth are brought together. When this happens, the malocclusion is called an open bite. Some open bites affect only the front teeth, known as anterior open bites.


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Rye Smiles for Life

10614 Warwick Avenue, Ste A, Fairfax, VA 22030

(703) 565-2503