Whether it’s a small gap between teeth or a severe crossbite, the truth is that few people have a perfectly aligned smile. If you’re one of many adults bothered by a dental misalignment and searching for a teeth-straightening solution, you’re in luck.
These days, there are more teeth-straightening options than ever, including several that are significantly more affordable than you may have realized. However, some are better suited than others for particular conditions, so it’s important to understand your options before jumping in. This guide breaks down the most common types of dental misalignments (or “malocclusions”) and highlights popular treatment options for each condition.
Table of Contents
Common Types of Malocclusions
You might recognize that your teeth aren’t straight when you look in the mirror, but do you know the actual diagnosis? Here’s some helpful info about the most common conditions.
Dental crowding occurs when there isn’t enough space on the jaw to accommodate all your teeth, causing them to overlap, displaced, or rotate. It’s a very common condition and one that’s easily corrected.
In most cases, crowding doesn’t present a serious medical concern, although it can accelerate plaque buildup and tooth/gum decay since it makes brushing and flossing more difficult. Most times, teeth crowding is an easy fix for braces, Invisalign, and at-home aligners (provided your case isn’t too severe).
Learn More About Correcting Dental Crowding
Dental spacing is similar to crowding in that it’s extremely common and very treatable. You probably already guessed that this condition consists of gaps between multiple teeth. It’s primarily a cosmetic concern, but in severe cases, it can cause difficulty chewing and increased plaque buildup between teeth.
It’s typically pretty easy to correct spacing using braces, Invisalign, or at-home teeth aligners. Depending on the severity, veneers or dental bonding might be viable options too.
Learn More About Correcting Dental Spacing
Also called midline discrepancy or deviated midline, this is when your teeth are slightly off-center. Unless it’s coupled with a bite issue, a midline misalignment isn’t a huge cause for concern. But if it bothers you, getting braces, Invisalign, or at-home aligners (for cases not caused by jaw misalignments) can help correct it.
Learn More About Correcting Midline
While this might seem identical to dental spacing, a tooth gap (or “diastema”) is a space between two teeth instead of several, most commonly the top front two. This is rarely a medical concern and many people live their whole lives with a tooth gap.
But if your gap bothers you or makes you less confident, know that it’s usually a quick and easy fix with numerous treatments, including home aligners, Invisalign, braces, veneers, and bonding.
Learn More About Correcting a Tooth Gap
Overbite is a jaw misalignment rather than a teeth misalignment. It occurs when the top teeth protrude too far in front of the bottom ones. Minor overbites don’t often present any serious complications, but more significant ones can cause enamel damage, jaw discomfort, headaches, and more.
Because it’s a jaw condition, overbite typically requires an in-office treatment that can incorporate attachments like elastics. So, braces and Invisalign are usually better options than at-home aligners.
Learn More About Correcting Overbite
Underbite is another jaw misalignment, one that occurs when the bottom teeth protrude in front of the top teeth. Sometimes, cases of underbite are mild, while other times, they can cause difficulty chewing, enamel erosion, headaches, jaw discomfort, and more.
Like overbite, cases of underbite, specifically severe ones, require treatments with supplemental attachments that can shift the jaw. These cases are often too complex for at-home aligners and require the hands-on care of braces or Invisalign instead.
Learn More About Correcting Underbite
This condition can be a bit more complicated, mainly because it takes so many different forms. Crossbite is when some, but not all, of the bottom teeth protrude over the top teeth. The symptoms and treatment for this condition are varied, based on which teeth it affects.
Sometimes, crossbite is a dental issue caused by misaligned teeth, while other times it’s skeletal, stemming from a jaw malocclusion. Dental crossbites can respond well to various treatments, including braces, Invisalign, and home aligners. Skeletal ones, however, almost always require the in-person care provided by braces or Invisalign.
Learn More About Correcting Crossbite
Overjet is often confused with overbite because they’re both characterized by front teeth that protrude too far over the bottom ones. The difference is that in cases of overjet, the teeth protrude out and not down, like in cases of overbite.
Like overbite, it’s possible to live with overjet, but it might cause difficulty chewing, increased enamel wear, and accelerated tooth and gum decay. At-home aligners can only treat overjet cases that are purely dental. Cases of jaw misalignment usually require the more robust, in-office care of braces or Invisalign.
Learn More About Correcting Overjet
This condition prevents the upper and lower teeth from coming together in a closed mouth. It can be dental, skeletal, or habitual (the result of thumb-sucking, tongue thrusting, etc.). Even though it doesn’t present immediate dental concerns, it can cause jaw pain, difficulty chewing, and speech issues.
Cases of skeletal open bite (ones caused by a jaw misalignment) can typically only be corrected by an in-office treatment like braces or Invisalign. You might be able to treat dental and habitual cases with at-home aligners.
Learn More About Correcting Open Bite
When To Get Treatment
Plenty of adults live with dental misalignments every day and have perfectly happy lives. However, certain conditions, when severe, can eventually lead to uneven wear and tear, advanced tooth decay, and gum disease. And others might rob you of your confident smile.
There are three major reasons you might want to seek treatment. First, if your condition is causing you physical discomfort. Second, if your condition is severe and you’re worried about its potential effects down the road. And third, if it makes you socially uncomfortable because you’re embarrassed about your smile.
After you decide to get treatment, you’ve got another decision waiting: which treatment should you choose? Everything in this guide is correctable but certain treatments might be more effective than others. Take a look at this handy table:
Can Braces Treat It?
Can Invisalign Treat It?
Can Home Aligners Treat It?
|Overbite||Yes||Yes||Only mild cases|
|Underbite||Yes||Yes||Only mild cases|
|Crossbite||Yes||Yes||Only mild cases|
|Overjet||Yes||Yes||Only dental cases (not skeletal)|
|Open Bite||Yes||Yes||Only dental cases (not skeletal)|
Consult your dentist or orthodontist to get an accurate diagnosis first. That way, you’ll know which options you have. The most important step is determining your own priorities and which treatment fits them the best. For example, braces or Invisalign might be more extensive, but home aligners are more affordable and often faster.
Remember, you’re not alone in this. Tons of adults have teeth and jaw misalignments, and the good news is that there are some effective treatments available. With an understanding of your condition and some dedicated research, you can find a path that will fit your priorities.