Your bite is the way your upper and lower teeth fit together. If your upper teeth fit slightly over your lower teeth and the points of your molars fit the grooves of the opposite molars, then you have a healthy bite.
Sometimes a bite that fits properly is referred to as an ideal bite or a normal bite.
Occlusion refers to the alignment of your bite. If the alignment is correct, then your lower teeth protect your tongue and your upper teeth prevent you from biting your lips and cheeks.
Malocclusion is your dentist’s way of saying that your teeth aren’t properly aligned. Malocclusion can be caused by:
- difference in the size of your upper and lower jaws
- difference in the size of your teeth and your jaw
- lost teeth, extra teeth, or impacted teeth
- birth defect, such as cleft palate
- misalignment of a jaw repair after an injury
- dentistry issues, such as poorly fitting crowns, braces, or retainers
- childhood habits, such as thumb sucking, extended pacifier use, or tongue thrusting
- jaw or mouth tumors
The classes of malocclusions are determined by the positioning of your upper and lower jaws and teeth and how the upper and lower relate to each other.
- Class 1. Your upper teeth slightly overlap your lower teeth.
- Class 2. Your upper jaw and upper teeth severely overlap the lower jaw and teeth. This is also called an overbite.
- Class 3. Your lower jaw and lower teeth severely overlap the upper jaw and upper teeth. This is also called an underbite.
In diagnosing your bite, your dentist or orthodontist will most likely go through a number of steps, including:
- a physical examination of your mouth
- X-rays to get a comprehensive look at teeth, roots, and jawbone
- an impression of your teeth to make a model of your mouth
Malocclusions can result in:
- problems biting and chewing
- speech problems, such as a lisp
- difficulty breathing
- abnormal facial appearance
- teeth grinding
With a normal, properly aligned bite:
- your teeth are easier to clean properly which can reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum diseases such as gingivitis
- there’s less strain on your jaws and muscles, which can ease temporomandibular joint disorders
A 2011 study had people evaluate photos showing faces with either normal bites or imperfect bites. The people rated most attractive, intelligent, agreeable, and extroverted were people with a normal bite.
Although most alignment problems are minor and don’t need to be treated, some can be addressed with:
- braces to straighten teeth and improve your bite
- tooth removal to alleviate overcrowding
- tooth repair, such as reshaping, capping, or bonding
- surgery to reshape or change the length of the jaw
If you have concerns about your bite, ask your dentist for their educated opinion about the alignment of your teeth.
There are both cosmetic and health advantages to having a normal bite. Talk to your dentist about the alignment of your teeth and your bite.
Chances are your bite is just fine, but if it’s off, there are a number of fixes available, including braces.