What Are the Different Types of Orthodontic Malocclusions?

Crooked teeth, crowded teeth, and protruding teeth are more than cosmetic issues. When your teeth do not align properly, you can suffer from trapped bacteria, incidental wear and tear, difficulty eating, as well as a host of other dental problems. Malocclusion can even lead to problems with your gums, like gum tissue recession from increased pressure on certain areas of your mouth.

We’re here to give you the facts on the types of malocclusions that affect patients, and some of the solutions that can help you breathe, eat, and smile more easily. 

Types of Orthodontic Malocclusions

Teeth alignment issues can result from physiological factors, wisdom teeth, or a whole range of other genetic or environmental factors. There are several types of malocclusions that can impact facial aesthetics, or can cause difficulties with eating or chewing. 

Crooked Teeth

“Crooked teeth” is the general term used to describe a combination of issues that could include misaligned, crowded, or gapped teeth. Many people feel that cooked teeth are cosmetically unattractive, but they are also more difficult to clean, which can result in an increased risk of cavities and gum disease.

Gapped Teeth

Well-aligned teeth should have minimal spacing between them. Spacing issues may be caused by small teeth or other perhaps tooth loss has left noticeable gaps between your teeth. The good news is that gapped teeth can easily be treated with straight wire orthodontics


A diastema is a noticeable gap between two anterior teeth. This type of malocclusion is most commonly found between the two front teeth of the upper jaw. Celebrities like Madonna, Woody Harrelson, and Elton John have diastemas. 

Crowded Teeth

When teeth do not have enough space to erupt correctly, overcrowding can result. Crowded teeth are packed in tightly and overlap, and often cause a wide range of teeth alignment problems. 

Protruding Teeth

Protruding teeth do not point straight down, but instead jut outward. This type of malocclusion can lead to instability in the teeth and impacted speech patterns.


A slight overlap of the top row of teeth over the bottom row is natural. When the overlap is significant, the individual is said to have an overbite.


Also known as an anterior crossbite, underbites cause the bottom front teeth to cover the top row of teeth when the jaws are closed.

Open Bite

If the top teeth do not overlap the lower row of teeth when the jaws are closed, the patient is said to have an open bite. The malocclusion leaves a noticeable gap between the top and bottom row of anterior teeth. 

Impacted Teeth

Impacted teeth either partially erupt or fail to emerge. A partially emerged tooth that’s crooked could cause misalignment of neighboring teeth. 

Dental Problems Caused by Malocclusions

Nine in 10 Americans report having some type of malocclusion. Our teeth and jaw structure evolved to align precisely for efficient chewing. When teeth become misaligned, serious speech impediments and other conditions arise.

Speech Impediments

Teeth perform an important function in speech. Our anterior teeth work with the tongue and lips to control airflow during speech. Certain sounds need the tongue to strike the teeth in a precise manner. Individuals who have an open bite, gapped teeth, or other spacing issues may speak with a slight lisp. Fortunately, that can easily be corrected through orthodontic treatment.

Jaw Pain

The TMJs act as sliding hinges that allow your bottom jaw to open and close. When the joints become damaged due to TMJ disorder, patients can suffer from bruxism, difficulty sleeping, and pain while eating. An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from this condition. 

The TMJs location near the ears, neck, and brain means that pain can radiate outward. Headaches are a common symptom of TMJ disorder. Many people with the condition report feeling sleepy or groggy during the day. 

How are malocclusions diagnosed?

Malocclusions are diagnosed by a physical examination. Digital imaging or X-rays and a review of symptoms are also commonly used to identify the source of the patient’s particular issue. Malocclusions can be so subtle that patients may not even realize the cosmetic issues resulting from misaligned teeth.

Chipped teeth, jaw pain, or teeth grinding are potential signs of teeth-alignment problems. Patients may seek relief from jaw pain and not realize that crooked teeth are the underlying cause of discomfort. 

What are the orthodontic treatment options for crooked teeth?

While clear aligners can address malocclusions, traditional orthodontics using braces still offer greater control over orthodontic treatments. The fad of “fast orthodontics” does not offer the benefits that straight-wire orthodontics do.

Benefits of Traditional Orthodontic Treatment for Crooked Teeth

Patients who suffer from TMJ disorder, bruxism, headaches, and other ailments and conditions want relief. If clear aligners do not relieve discomfort and pain, the cosmetic results may not be worth the time and effort.

Cephalometric analysis, commonly used by orthodontists, is a proven method for diagnosing malocclusions. Clear aligners have rigid treatment options, but orthodontists know that any treatment needs to be flexible.

Bradford R. Williams, DDS, is a leader in the field of orthodontic coursework. General and pediatric dentists can treat up to 80% of orthodontic cases they encounter after completing his course. General and pediatric dentists can boost revenue by not having to refer all their orthodontic cases out, and your patients benefit from receiving expert care from a provider they trust.

Learn about orthodontic treatments for crowded teeth with AOS.

General and pediatric dentists can use orthodontic treatments to address crooked teeth, crowded teeth, and protruding teeth. Treating malocclusions can prevent your patients from developing problems with their gums, improve their oral health and function, and restore their confidence and love of their smile. Sign up for the next straight-wire orthodontics course.

To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.

1st Session: April 26-28, 2024

AOS Institute
1785 State Highway 26
Grapevine, Texas 76051

July 19-21, 2024

AOS Institute
1785 State Highway 26
Grapevine, Texas 76051

August 23-24, 2024

AOS Institute
1785 State Highway 26
Grapevine, Texas 76051

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