Braces are used to move teeth into the ideal position and align how they bite together, known as occlusion. Malocclusion is used to describe the misalignment of teeth between the upper and lower dental arches, using the first molars as a reference point. There are three different types of misalignment, defined by Classification.
While some patients may have the ideal bite, they may suffer from varying degrees of crowding or spacing, another factor associated with a misaligned bite. Crowding is a condition that causes the teeth to overlap, rotate, and in some cases, grow into the incorrect position in the mouth, or in more extreme cases, cause the tooth to become trapped in the bone. Crowding may be caused because the dental arch is too small for the adult teeth, or the adult teeth are larger than normal. Crowding may also be caused by losing the primary or baby teeth early, or retaining them in the mouth longer than normal. These factors may inhibit the adult tooth, forcing it to erupt or grow into an incorrect position. Crowding makes it difficult to brush and floss the teeth correctly, possibly resulting in tooth decay or gingivitis. Alternatively, varying degrees of spacing may be present, due to smaller teeth or jaw size.