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Common Malocclusions

June 29th, 2022

When we think orthodontics, we commonly think teeth. Naturally! Straight teeth and a beaming smile are everyone’s orthodontic goal. But orthodontics is a field which specializes in more than misaligned teeth. While your beautifully aligned teeth are the visible outcome of your orthodontic work, a properly aligned bite is the foundation for your healthy smile.

A malocclusion occurs when the teeth and jaws aren’t properly aligned—they don’t fit together the way they should when the mouth is closed. A malocclusion, or bad bite, affects many people to some degree, but not always in exactly the same way. Some of the different types of malocclusion include:

  • Crossbite

A crossbite occurs when upper teeth fit inside lower teeth. An anterior crossbite refers to the front teeth, with one or more upper front teeth, or incisors, fitting behind lower front teeth. A posterior crossbite affects the back teeth, with upper teeth fitting inside the lower teeth on one or both sides of the jaw.

  • Crowding

When the jaw is small and/or the teeth are large, lack of space can result in crowded, twisted, or crooked teeth.

  • Open bite

An anterior open bite means that the front teeth don’t close when biting down, leaving an open space between the upper and lower teeth. A posterior open bite occurs when the back teeth don’t make contact when the front teeth close.

  • Overbite

Our upper front teeth naturally overlap the lower ones a small bit when the teeth are closed. An overbite occurs when the upper teeth significantly overlap the lower teeth.

  • Overjet

When the upper front teeth protrude too far forward over the bottom teeth, it’s called an overjet, or, sometimes, buck teeth. Where an overbite causes a vertical overlap, an overjet takes into account the horizontal relationship of the teeth.

  • Spacing

A jaw that is large, teeth that are small, missing teeth—these conditions can lead to gaps between the teeth.

  • Underbite

An underbite results when the lower teeth and jaw extend further forward than the upper teeth and jaw, causing the bottom teeth to overlap the top teeth.

If you have a malocclusion, what comes next? This depends.

Some malocclusions are so minor that no treatment is necessary. Some are the result of misaligned teeth. Some occur because the upper and lower jaws are growing at different rates. Some are a combination of teeth and jaw misalignments. Some are caused by genetics, while others are caused by injuries or habits like prolonged thumb sucking or tongue thrusting.

Because malocclusions are so varied, your treatment plan will be designed for your specific needs. Braces, aligners, appliances like the Herbst® appliance or the palatal expander, surgery for severe malocclusions—there is a larger variety of treatment options than ever before to help you achieve a healthy bite.

When teeth and jaws don’t fit together as they should, the consequences can be damaged teeth and enamel, problems with the temporomandibular joint, headaches and facial pain, and difficulty chewing, eating, and speaking.

The good news is that early intervention for children can help correct teeth and jaw problems before they become more serious, leading to easier orthodontic care in the teen years, and helping to avoid the possibility of surgery or extractions. This is why Dr. Theurer and our team recommend an orthodontic assessment at our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA office for children around the age of seven.

If you’re an adult with concerns about your teeth or bite, there’s good news for you, too. Dr. Theurer can devise a treatment plan to improve your bite and your smile no matter what your age.

Of course, despite our title, there’s really no such thing as a “common malocclusion” when we’re talking about your dental health. Each person—and each smile—is unique. Dr. Theurer will diagnose your malocclusion and create a personalized plan carefully tailored to your exact needs, for an uncommonly attractive, confident, and healthy smile.

Understanding Your Overjet

June 22nd, 2022

Bite problems are so common that most of us know someone who’s worn braces. So perhaps you’re already familiar with the terms “overbite” and “underbite”—but if you’ve been diagnosed with an “overjet,” that just might be an orthodontic diagnosis that is new to you. If so, here are a few questions and answers to help promote overjet understanding.

Just what is an “overjet”?

An overjet is a type of malocclusion, which means that there’s a problem with your bite, the way your jaws and teeth fit together when you bite down. In a healthy bite, the front top teeth project slightly beyond, and slightly overlap, the bottom teeth. The key word here is “slightly.”

An overjet is a Class II malocclusion, which means that the upper front teeth project further beyond the lower teeth than they should. Overjets and overbites are both Class II malocclusions, and the words are often used interchangeably, but there’s a notable difference between the two conditions.

An overbite occurs when the top teeth overlap the bottom teeth too far vertically, and you can’t see as much of the lower teeth as you should when you bite down.

An overjet is considered more horizontal in nature, where the top teeth project at an outward angle toward the lips instead of pointing straight down toward the bottom teeth. This condition is sometimes called protruding or buck teeth.

What causes an overjet?

The reason for your overjet might be dental (caused by tooth alignment), or skeletal (caused by bone development), or a combination of both.

Overjets can run in families. They can also be caused by the size and position of your jaws and the shape and position of your teeth, all of which affect your bite alignment. But early oral habits, such as prolonged and vigorous thumb-sucking or pacifier use, can also contribute to overjet development.

How do we treat an overjet?

There are many types of treatment available. Dr. Theurer will recommend a treatment plan based on the cause and severity of your overjet. Because some treatments are effective while bones are still growing, age plays a part as well.

  • Braces and Aligners

If you have a mild overjet, and minor dental issues are the main cause of the malocclusion, braces or clear aligners can effective.

  • Functional Appliances

If the overjet is caused by a problem with upper and lower jaw development, devices called functional appliances can be used to help guide the growth of the jawbones while a child’s bones are still forming.

For young patients, there are several appliances which can help correct an overjet. Some, such as the Twin Block and the Forsus Spring appliances, work inside the mouth, while others, like headgear, are worn externally. Your orthodontist will recommend the most effective appliance for your needs.

  • Surgical treatment

In some cases, where the malocclusion is skeletal in nature as well as dental, surgical treatment might be necessary to reshape the jawbone itself.

If we recommend surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are experts in surgical procedures designed to create a healthy and symmetrical jaw alignment. Dr. Theurer will work with your surgeon to design a treatment plan, which will usually include braces or other appliances following surgery.

Why treat your overjet?

A serious, moderate, or even mild overjet can lead to many dental and medical problems, including:

  • Concerns about facial and dental appearance
  • Front teeth which are more at risk for injury
  • Difficulty closing the lips
  • Problems speaking or chewing
  • Headaches, facial, and temporomandibular (jaw) joint pain

When you work with our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA team to correct your overjet, you’re not just correcting a problem. You’re also creating something—a healthy, comfortable bite, and an attractive, confident smile. We can talk about general answers to your overjet questions, but when it comes to understanding your very individual smile, Dr. Theurer will have all the answers you need to make that healthy bite and that confident smile a reality! 

Keeping It Clean—Better for Your Retainer, Better for Your Oral Health!

June 1st, 2022

Now that you’ve graduated from your braces or aligners, you might think you’re finished with orthodontic cleaning tips. Not quite yet! Your retainer needs love, too—not just because it can look or smell “less than appealing” without your help, but because it’s good for your dental health.

Removable Retainers

If you have a Hawley retainer or a clear retainer, cleaning it whenever you remove it is a great idea. Unappetizing white patches mean plaque or mineral deposits from your saliva have dried and hardened on your retainer’s surface. And if you notice an unpleasant taste or odor, it probably means that germs and bacteria have made themselves at home and are growing in and on your appliance.

You don’t want old plaque or new bacteria in your mouth! Here are some ways to keep your retainer clean and fresh:

  • After wearing it, you can clean your retainer with a toothbrush, but don’t brush too vigorously. You might scratch it. Use a soft or even extra-soft brush to clean out all the nooks and crannies, and then rinse.
  • Use cleaning products which have been recommended by Dr. Theurer if your retainer needs a deeper clean. Denture cleaners, retainer cleaners, and even toothpastes can be too abrasive or cause discoloration, so use the products made for your specific retainer.
  • Let your retainer dry before storing it in a dry place after cleaning. Shutting a damp retainer into a closed case provides bacteria with the damp, dark environment they thrive in. (PS—clean your case regularly, too!)
  • One of the benefits of a clear retainer is that it’s almost invisible. And you can help keep it that way by removing it whenever you eat or drink. Your retainer can become stained from colored foods or liquids.

Fixed Retainers

A permanent retainer is a small piece of wire that is custom-fit and bonded to the inside of selected teeth to keep them from shifting. Because food particles and plaque can accumulate around a fixed retainer, brushing after meals and at least twice a day is recommended. Bacteria and plaque cause bad breath, cavities, and tartar buildup, and removing tartar might require removing your retainer.

While a fixed retainer can be tricky to clean, there are techniques and products that make cleaning easier and more effective:

  • An orthodontic toothbrush with a smaller head might reach behind your teeth more comfortably.
  • Don’t forget to floss! Using a floss threader will help you get that wriggly floss behind the retainer and between your teeth.
  • Try a water flosser. These handy devices direct a stream of water right into hard-to-reach places for more thorough cleaning.

If you’re having trouble keeping your retainer clean, our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA orthodontic team can teach you all you need to know about tools and techniques to keep your retainer—and your teeth and gums—healthy. An attractive smile is a great thing. A healthy, attractive smile is even better!

Be Prepared!

May 25th, 2022

When you’re busy at school or work, when you’re on vacation, when you’re on the road to adventure—preparation helps everything go smoothly. Especially when the unexpected happens! So, how can you be prepared for any orthodontic and dental situations which might arise? By creating these useful—and portable—travel kits.

Everyday Basics Kit

Dentists recommend brushing twice a day and flossing at least once each day for clean and healthy teeth. But after a long day at school or work with no time to head home before your date, or a garlic-heavy lunch in the cafeteria, or a dash from the classroom to after-school activities, you might feel like there’s no time like the present to give your smile a bit of a boost.

Be prepared with a small travel bag filled with these easy-to-carry basics to get you through your busy day with clean teeth, fresh breath, and a confident smile:

  • Toothbrush and case—and do make sure your case is ventilated so your brush can air dry. Bacteria love a closed, damp environment!
  • Toothpaste
  • Mini-bottle of mouthwash
  • Small mirror—to check for any lunch leftovers
  • Dental floss—to remove any lunch leftovers. Use braces-friendly dental floss if you have traditional braces.
  • Dental Wax—to cover any uncomfortable wires or brackets
  • Interproximal brushes—to remove food particles from around your braces and between your teeth
  • Extra rubber bands
  • Aligner/Retainer case—keep your aligner or retainer safe and clean while you’re eating

Flight Gear

Getting set to travel by air again after this long lay-over? Your basic kit will do the job with just a few minor additions and alterations.

  • A travel version of your manual or electric toothbrush and travel case
  • Plug adapter or voltage converter as needed for your electric brush if you’re visiting another country
  • Quart size, resealable plastic bag to hold your carry-on supplies. Toothpaste and mouthwash are included in the list of items which need to fit carry-on guidelines.
  • Travel-size toothpaste—3.4 oz (100 ml) or smaller tube size. (And an almost-empty regular size tube doesn’t count!)
  • Travel-size mouthwash—also in a 3.4 oz (100 ml) or smaller container
  • Our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA office’s phone number. In case of emergency, Dr. Theurer can give you advice on how to handle any problem which might arise when you’re far from home.

Looking for Adventure?

If you’re camping in the forest, leaving for the lake, going for a road trip, or heading out on any travel adventure, you’ll be bringing the dental care basics, of course. We’d also like to recommend some items to take along in the event of a dental emergency while you’re away from home:

  • Dental mirror
  • Cotton rolls
  • Over-the-counter pain relief—including a tube of oral pain relief gel
  • Ice pack
  • Dental wax—this handy item not only protects against sharp wires, it can cover the sharp edges of a broken bracket
  • Temporary fillings—to protect your sensitive tooth if a filling or crown is lost
  • Tooth preservation kit—to protect a dislodged tooth in case it can be reimplanted. (This means seeing a dentist very quickly, usually within 30 minutes of the accident.)

And, if you’ll be mountain biking, water skiing, or enjoying any activity where there’s potential for impact, don’t forget to pack your mouthguard!

Preparation is key to eliminating a lot of stress in our daily lives, and who couldn’t use a bit of stress-relief these days? Make room in your bag, locker, desk, luggage, or backpack for some portable, lightweight dental necessities. Be prepared to share your confident, healthy smile no matter what life has in store!

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