Malocclusion is a term used in dentistry that refers to a person’s bite that differs from the ideal relationship of the patients upper and lower teeth. Malocclusion may lead to many different problems. Some people may experience difficulty with chewing and speech. TMJ symptoms of pain and degenerative disease are also associated with more severe malocclusions. Self-confidence and interpersonal development are also directly affected by malocclusion.
The origin of the malocclusion may be dental, strictly a disorder of teeth alignment, skeletal, meaning a situation where the upper and/or lower jaw is malpositioned leading to compromised teeth relationships, or a combination of dental and skeletal origin.
The origin of the malocclusion is very important in that often times it dictates the nature of treatment. Dental malocclusions are almost exclusively treated with orthodontic treatment alone, meaning braces. Skeletal and combination dental and skeletal malocclusions are often times best treated with a combined orthodontic and oral surgical treatment, termed orthognathic surgery, commonly referred to as corrective jaw surgery.
Orthognathic surgery patients will typically be seen by an orthodontist and oral surgeon prior to the initiation of treatment. The consultation visits will include thorough exam, dental impressions, bite registrations, x-rays, and facial and dental photos. Once a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan is agreed upon by the orthodontist and oral surgeon, the patient will then start with pre-surgical orthodontics. Each case is unique and consequently the length and amount of pre-surgical orthodontic treatment will vary on a case-by-case basis. Once pre-surgical orthodontics is complete the patient will then undergo the planned orthognathic surgery procedure. Surgical treatment may address the upper jaw, the lower jaw, the chin, or commonly a combination. Following surgery and an appropriate healing interval, the patient again enters into orthodontic treatment, post-surgical orthodontics. This phase of orthodontics is meant to finish and refine the fine details of the case to achieve the absolutely best possible result.
Specific diagnoses and surgical treatments will be discussed in later installments. For further information visit www.oralsurgeryathens.com or www.aaoms.org, or schedule a consultation with your general dentist, orthodontist, or oral and maxillofacial surgeon.