How to fix a crooked or misaligned jaw.
Table of Contents
- Treatment for Kids
- Treatment for Adults
- Is Treatment Mandatory?
Do you nibble on pens and pencils? Was thumb sucking a favorite childhood activity? Do you come from a long line of people with protruding jaws? Any or all of these issues could result in a crooked or misaligned jaw.
Growing kids can use masks, headgear, and other removable tools to nudge their jaws into the right position. But adults often hear that they need surgery followed by braces.
These drastic steps aren't always necessary. In fact, some adults choose to leave their misaligned jaws as they are with no intervention whatsoever. But for adults who want straighter smiles without scalpels and wires, aligners might offer a safe way forward.
What causes misaligned jaws?
The term malocclusion refers to jaws that don't fit together optimally. Lower teeth shoot in front of upper incisors, or gaps appear when upper teeth close over lower incisors.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine says the condition stems from:
Foreign Objects In The Mouth
Injury or Illness
Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome
Treatment for growing kids.
Bones grow throughout childhood, and that gives parents plenty of opportunities to intervene. Appliances used while a child grows can shift jaw size or position, and that can prevent serious problems from taking hold.
Researchers say common tools used in kids include:
- Chin cups.
- Face masks.
- Traction devices.
- Regulator appliances.
These tools put pressure on growing bones, and they slowly influence how the child's face looks. Often, kids wear these devices at night or while sitting at home. During the day, they can take them off and enjoy life as normal. The work is painful, but it's very private.
Unfortunately, these tools won't work once growth plates close. That happens at around age 16 in girls and age 21 for boys. Once that window closes, addressing the issue involves more drastic interventions.
Treatment for adults.
Adults with malocclusion need more help to shift their jaws into the proper position. Often, experts recommend a combination of surgery and braces.
During surgery, bones are broken and sculpted. Titanium rods and screws hold the bits in place. This hardware is permanent, experts say, and it's never removed. Recovery involves:
A Hospital Stay
A Gradual Return To Eating
Missed Work or School
Surgery shifts the position of jaws, but it's often not enough to adequately address the issue. Doctors use braces after surgery to move the teeth so they sit properly on the newly formed jawbones.
It takes years to complete this process, and it's often uncomfortable or painful. It's also not necessary for everyone.
Is treatment mandatory?
You've been told that you must fix a crooked or misaligned jaw, but the idea of surgery and braces scares you. Should you push through the fear and sign up? Not always.
Experts say that some people with misaligned jaws handle everyday tasks just fine. When dentists look at their x-rays, they may see something unusual, but the person notices no problem at all. If you're in this category, you may choose to opt out of severe interventions.
But some people do experience significant problems due to misaligned jaws, including:
- Airway obstruction.
- Digestive difficulties.
- Immune system deficiencies.
- Sleep apnea.
It's also tough to keep your teeth clean when they don't meet properly. Poor dental hygiene leads to cavities and potential tooth loss. It's reasonable to get treatment for the issue. There are options aside from braces.
Aligners: a middle path.
Aligners work much like braces. They apply gentle pressure to teeth until they shift positions, and the tendons attaching the teeth to the bone slowly shift and take up their permanent new home. These devices can be used in place of braces to amend a misaligned jaw.
Aligners were once considered appropriate for mild cases but not significant problems. That's changing, researchers say. As professionals become more adept at managing aligner therapy, they're able to apply the treatment to more significant issues. If you have a more severe case, you may still qualify for an aligner like Invisalign.
Aligner therapy tends to be faster than braces therapy. But your compliance is crucial. To get the most from aligners, you must:
Follow The Treatment Schedule
Update Your Doctor
Malocclusion of Teeth. (April 2020). U.S. National Library of Medicine.
What to Know About Prognathism. (November 2019). Healthline.
Treatment of Mandibular Prognathism. (October 2006). Journal of the Formosan Medical Association.
Jaw Surgery. (January 2018). Mayo Clinic.
Surgical Treatment to Correct a Bad Bite: Frequently Asked Questions. (November 2008). University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Paradox in Orthodontic Treatment of the Adult Patient With Maxillary Prognathism and Distalization of Low Posterior Teeth. (May 2016). Journal of Dental Health, Oral Disorders, and Therapy.
What Hygienists Need to Consider When Treating Patients With Malocclusion. (September 2019). Today's RDH.
Using Clear Aligner Therapy to Correct Malocclusion with Crowding and an Open Bite. (April 2012). General Dentistry.
Transparent Aligners: An Invisible Approach to Correct Mild Skeletal Class III Malocclusion. (April 2015). Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences.
Efficiency, Effectiveness and Treatment Stability of Clear Aligners: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. (May 2017). Orthodontics and Craniofacial Research.