Teeth Alignment

We all know that it is important for teeth to be “properly aligned”. We have all heard the orthodontist say that braces are made in order to realign your teeth, or conversely, to treat a malocclusion. But what is a proper alignment of teeth? Each individual has their own set of teeth, and a unique smile, and each jaw is equipped with its own, unique system of teeth, so how do we know when they are properly aligned?

Ideal Alignment

While it is true that each mouth is different, and the alignment of each set of teeth is different, there are several guidelines that can tell us whether the bite is good or not. Ideally, regardless of the shape or type of bite a person has, when they bite down, the teeth should fit over each other perfectly, with the top teeth covering the bottom teeth just slightly. If the alignment of the teeth is not in this way, there is some leeway, as how much of the bottom teeth are covered is subject to a slight variability. A malocclusion is when the bite does not close evenly, and there are gaps in the alignment of the teeth. If the bottom jaw protrudes more than the top jaw, this is always the sign of a pathological condition, and it needs to be corrected.

tooth-alignment

Degrees

A malocclusion is considered pathological when it is severe enough that it interferes with the patients ability to eat, speak or otherwise function, or if it causes pain or damage to the teeth, jaw, or the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. If the bite does not close, the teeth can become damaged if they touch too frequently, as the enamel will become scraped off, and cavities will be more likely to form. An improper jaw may also put more pressure on the TMJ or the jawbone, which will lead to pain and damage of the jawbone or TMJ. If there are too many nooks and crannies from the teeth being crooked, than food can become stuck in these little spaces, and cavities are more likely to form.

With “proper” tooth alignment, the teeth are easy to clean, the jaw does not hurt from biting and chewing, and the teeth do not get in the way of speech or of food. These are pretty much the only guidelines, and correcting as bite means to to make sure that the alignment provides these benefits.

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