Common Bite Problems in Adults and Children: Malocclusions

As children develop, their teeth and facial bones develop their “bite.” When a bite is not considered perfect, meaning anything other than the teeth lining up and resting together when the mouth is closed, is considered a malocclusion. Here are some quick descriptions of the most common malocclusions.


A malocclusion is a term to describe a condition where the upper and lower teeth do not meet up with each other properly. There are many different types and variations of malocclusions. Here’s a quick rundown on the most common malocclusions.


When the upper and lower teeth do not match up perfectly, but otherwise the bite is perfect, it’s considered a Class I bite.


If the upper teeth overlap the bottom teeth to create an overbite, this is called a Class II bite


When the lower teeth wrap around the upper teeth to create an underbite, this is called a Class III bite.

Each class of malocclusion can be broken down further into a more detailed diagnosis for the orthodontist to create a specialized treatment plan.

Overcrowding and Crooked Teeth

a person's mouth with teeth

When teeth don’t have the optimal room to space out and straighten on their own, they tend to crowd each other. While overcrowding doesn’t create life-changing problems, it’s the most popular reason to have orthodontic treatment.

Impacted Tooth

close-up of a person's mouth

If a tooth cannot erupt where it needs to in the mouth, it is called an “impacted tooth.” To fix this, your orthodontist will need to create space in the mouth for the tooth; either through extraction or by moving other teeth. Wisdom teeth are commonly impacted because there is not enough room in the mouth for them to erupt. Impacted wisdom teeth can start to move horizontally in the mouth if not removed, causing a slew of other problems.

If not taken care of, impacted teeth can become infected. Impaction can also cause resorption of healthy teeth. Resorption means the tooth will deteriorate underneath the gums because it isn't being used. To find impacted teeth, you’ll need a panoramic x-ray, which you can receive at Hillam Orthodontics’ free consultation. Schedule one today!


close-up of a person's mouth

While most commonly found between the front 2 top teeth, diastemas can be found anywhere in the mouth! “Diastema” is the term that describes a gap of space between teeth.


An overjet causes the front top teeth to protrude horizontally, leading to difficulty chewing and speaking. Overjets can occur naturally, or they're caused by excessive pacifier use or thumb sucking in childhood.

Open Bite

An open bite is when the lower and upper teeth do not meet together when the jaw is closed. If the front teeth do not meet, it’s called an anterior open bite. If the back teeth do not meet, it’s called a posterior open bite.


While anterior open bites can be caused by TMD, and skeletal disorders, the most common reason they develop is pacifier use. If a child is using a pacifier past 3 years of age, the teeth, jaw, and facial bones will begin to form around the pacifier. Open bites are easy to identify; if your child bites on their back teeth and their top teeth do not connect, it's likely they have an open bite. Treatment depends on how old the patient is, varying from behavior correction to surgery. Anterior open bites can cause pronunciation issues, chewing problems, and increased wear on the back teeth.


If your teeth don’t meet in the back of your mouth, you have a posterior open bite. Posterior open bites are rarer than anterior open bites, but they still make life difficult. Talking, swallowing, and chewing food is very difficult if your back teeth do not meet.


A slight overbite is not much to worry about as the rear teeth still connect, but severe overbites can make life difficult. At times, the lower teeth can hit the top of the palate instead of connecting with the upper teeth, causing speech problems and difficulty eating.

Anterior and Posterior Crossbite

When upper teeth bite inside of lower teeth, you have a crossbite. Crossbites can occur on either side of the mouth or simultaneously on both sides; both anteriorly (front of the mouth) or posteriorly (back of the mouth).


When the lower jaw wraps around the upper teeth, it creates an anterior crossbite, but more commonly it is called an underbite. Depending on the severity of the underbite, some live with pain due to jaw misalignment. It can also be difficult to chew or speak. Many with an underbite also deal with enamel wear, as some of their teeth will wear faster than others.


If the back upper teeth bite inside of the back lower teeth, this is what’s called a posterior crossbite. These crossbites can occur on one side of the mouth or on both sides. This can make chewing food difficult; and wear down the molars in an attempt to correct for the misalignment. Crossbites are evident at an early age and can be corrected in young children to aid in the development of the jaws and eruption of permanent teeth.


It’s possible to be missing teeth or have extra space in your mouth for all sorts of reasons. Some children do not develop all of their permanent adult teeth and have extra space in their mouths. Many adults have missing teeth for various reasons and orthodontics can “fill the gap” quite literally.

Fixing Malocclusions

Orthodontists train for years to fix malocclusions. By creating better chewing surfaces, relieving jaw pain, correcting a malocclusion is life-changing!

Through wearing headgear, braces, clear aligners, retainers, or going through surgery, most any malocclusion can be corrected!

Is It Important to Fix a Bad Bite?

When is the Best Time to Start Orthodontic Treatment?

Schedule an Appointment

Orthodontic treatment can make your life so much easier in speech, eating, and smiling. If you’re ready to make a change, schedule a free consultation at Hillam Orthodontics. We’ll take radiographs, examine your mouth and bite, and create a treatment plan.

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Why Hillam Orthodontics?

Board-certified Orthodontists
Offices in Idaho Falls, Driggs, & Afton
3 generations of doctors practicing since 1966

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