Understanding Malocclusion

Malocclusion refers to the alignment of your teeth. In some cases, malocclusion is minor and only causes cosmetic issues. However, more severe forms of dental misalignment can affect your daily function, making it challenging to eat comfortably and speak clearly. Misalignment can also make it difficult to properly brush and floss your teeth, which can result in tooth decay or even tooth loss. The effects of a misaligned bite may extend even beyond the smile, exacerbating conditions like temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Patients struggling with this condition may experience jaw pain, neck and back pain, and chronic headaches.

Common Causes

Malocclusion is often hereditary. The size and shape of your jaw or even a difference between the jaw and tooth size can force teeth out of alignment. However, a number of other factors can also come into play, including:

  • Childhood habits, such sucking your thumb or using pacifiers
  • Abnormalities in the teeth, such as extra teeth, lost teeth, impacted teeth, or misshapen teeth
  • Ill-fitting dental restorations or appliances, such as fillings, crowns, or retainers

While the effects of genetics are unavoidable, many other causes are preventable or treatable. By seeking regular dental treatment, you can potentially avoid these complications before they affect your oral health.

Types of Malocclusions

During your consultation, Dr. Ahn can review the common types of malocclusions and explain the form or forms you have. These may include:

Gaps between the Teeth

Gaps between the teeth allow food particles to more easily get stuck and can also cause abnormal jaw growth or gum recession.


An overjet is the horizontal projection of upper teeth beyond the lower front teeth.

When there’s excessive overjet, protruding teeth can risk damage and cause problems with speech, eating, and esthetics.


Overbite refers to the vertical overlap of upper teeth over the lower front teeth. An excessive overbite can cause difficulty eating and speaking, difficulty breathing, gum damage, tooth wear, and jaw pain.


This type of malocclusion arises when the lower front teeth protrude farther than the upper front teeth.


Crossbite is an abnormal relationship of a tooth or teeth to the opposing teeth, where the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth. 

An Anterior Crossbite affects the front teeth.

A Posterior Crossbite affects the back teeth.

Open Bite

An open bite is where the upper teeth don’t overlap the lower teeth. It can affect the front (anterior open bite) or the back (posterior open bite).


Crowding is very common and it is often caused by a lack of space. The inadequate space causes the teeth to be crooked and overlapped.

Impacted Tooth

A tooth impaction occurs when a tooth does not erupt normally well after the normal age of eruption.

It is possible for a single patient to have one form of malocclusion, or multiple forms simultaneously. The type and combination will determine your treatment.

Effective Treatment Options

Patients can take advantage of several orthodontic options to realign their bite, including:

  • Orthodontic Devices

    Dr. Ahn may recommend traditional braces (metal or ceramic) or clear aligners to correct the malocclusion. For some patients, palatal expanders or other orthodontic appliances may be recommended in order to correct the malocclusion. At the end of treatment, retainers will be provided and fitted to maintain the results of your treatment. For qualifying patients, clear aligners (i.e. Invisalign) can provide a discreet alternative to braces.

  • Tooth Removal

    If you are struggling with overcrowding, extraction can improve your overall oral health. We will only recommend tooth extraction when necessary.

  • Surgery

    In rare cases, surgical intervention is needed to reshape or stabilize the jaw.

    Treatment of malocclusions can last anywhere from six months to two or more years. This timeline depends on your treatment plan, the extent of misalignment, and in the case of Invisalign, your commitment to wearing your aligners. As most malocclusions develop in childhood or adolescence, early orthodontic treatment is often the most effective way to preserve the structure of your child’s smile.

Achieve Your Best Smile

Braces aren’t just for kids! Malocclusions can be corrected at any age as long as gums and bones are healthy. Adults can benefit from orthodontic treatment just as much as children. It can not only improve the health of the teeth and gums, but having a new smile can improve one’s self-esteem and overall appearance.

If you are interested in learning more about your options, you can click on the links below or contact us online anytime or call (703) 351-7645 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ahn.