How to Tell if Your Teeth Are Misaligned
Clinical content featured by Byte is reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to help ensure clinical accuracy.
We follow strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.
Table of Contents
- Key Facts about Misaligned Teeth
- A Common Problem
- What are Misaligned Teeth?
- Signs & Symptoms of Misaligned Teeth
- Common Types of Misaligned Teeth
- Causes of Misaligned Teeth
- Treatment for Misaligned Teeth
- Can you Prevent Misaligned Teeth?
- Using Byte for Misaligned Teeth
Misaligned teeth are affected by malocclusion, or improper alignment. This means the upper and lower teeth don’t fit together correctly. The bite is off.
When a bite is in alignment, the upper teeth fit subtly over the lower teeth and the points of molars fit into the opposite molars’ grooves. Misalignment problems include crowding, underbite, overbite, spacing, open bite, and crossbite.
Misaligned teeth are usually due to genetics, although other factors like childhood oral habits, abnormal teeth issues, and jaw injuries can also cause malocclusion. Orthodontic treatment can correct most misalignment issues. For severe or complex problems, surgery or tooth extraction may be needed.
If your teeth are misaligned, they likely look crooked, twisted, or incorrectly spaced. You may have speech issues, such as a lisp, or you may experience tooth or jaw pain. Misaligned teeth can also cause an abnormal face shape and make it difficult to close your mouth. If you are a chronic mouth breather, you may have misaligned teeth.
Many adults may ignore their teeth malocclusion, especially if they’ve grown used to an imperfect smile and bite. Some may not even be aware of it.
However, with the growing popularity of online meetings and conferences, and the advancing technology of more convenient orthodontic treatment options, more people are choosing to correct their misaligned teeth, opting for an improved smile and boost in their oral health and confidence.
Key Facts about Misaligned Teeth
- Misaligned bites often become noticeable between the ages of 6 and 12.
- There are three classes of malocclusion: Class 1 (most common; upper teeth slightly overlap lower teeth), Class 2 (overbite), and Class 3 (underbite).
- If left untreated, “bad bites” can cause or contribute to many oral health problems, including tooth decay, gum disease, jaw problems, tooth enamel wear, tooth loss, and problems speaking and eating.
- Orthodontic treatment is available at any age.
- Orthodontic treatment options today include choices that are less noticeable, like invisible braces, and more convenient and affordable, like clear, at-home aligners.
A Common Problem
If you have seen more advertisements for companies offering clear aligners that come in the mail, you may understand how common it is for people to have misaligned teeth. This is such a common problem that causes a lot of American adults to seek some form of smile improvement or even cosmetic adjustments or surgery.
Even if you had braces or a retainer as a child, your teeth are likely to shift in adulthood, which can create a smile that you dislike. You could experience other oral health problems, even if you do not have an evident misalignment in photos.
What are Misaligned Teeth?
The medical term for misaligned teeth is dental malocclusion. This term specifically means that the teeth do not properly or completely fit together, specifically in the way the upper and lower jaws fit together. Malocclusion can also refer to crowded or spaced-out teeth, which can change how the other teeth fit together, causing misalignment.
There are three basic types of malocclusion.
- Class 1: This is the most common, and it is hard to notice. The upper teeth protrude slightly over the lower jaw.
- Class 2: This is an overbite, which is also fairly common. The upper teeth and/or jaw protrude severely and noticeably overlap the lower teeth and jaw.
- Class 3: This is an underbite, characterized by a lower jaw that juts forward, so the lower teeth protrude past the upper teeth and jaw.
Signs & Symtpoms That Your Teeth Are Misaligned
The signs and symptoms of misaligned teeth may vary, depending on the cause of the malocclusion. If you’ve had misaligned teeth for most of your life, you may not notice some of the symptoms until becoming very aware or self-conscious about your smile or a related speech issue, for example.
Other people have misalignment that becomes worse as teeth shift with age. In more rare cases, an injury or trauma to the mouth may cause malocclusion symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of misaligned teeth include the following:
- Teeth that are visibly not in proper alignment: Of course, some of the most common signs of malocclusion are teeth that don’t appear to be lining up correctly. Teeth may look crowded, unevenly spaced, or jut forward.
- Face and/or jaw that appears abnormal: This may look like the top of the jaw is protruding too far over the bottom, or vice versa. It may just look like the bite is slightly off or crooked.
- Problems when biting or chewing: If a tooth (or multiple teeth) are experiencing friction against the inner mouth or against other teeth, there’s likely a malocclusion that needs to be addressed. Discomfort while eating and problems eating due to tooth irritation are also symptoms of an alignment problem. Difficulty biting into food could be a sign of an open bite.
- Speech problems: This may be a lisp or repeated difficulty with pronouncing a particular sound or word.
- Breathing through the mouth with open lips: Mouth breathing might seem harmless, but it’s actually linked to a number of health problems, including dry mouth, which can cause oral health problems like decay and bad breath.
- Jaw disorders, including TMJ: Teeth misalignment can cause TMJ and other jaw dysfunction problems.
- Decay and/or problems cleaning and flossing teeth: Malocclusion can make it difficult to properly clean in between teeth and near the gum line. Misaligned teeth can cause crowding and spacing, creating hard-to-reach hiding spots for damaging and decay-causing bacteria and plaque to accumulate in. Continuous cavities or recurring decay may be a sign of misalignment.
- Teeth grinding or clenching: Teeth grinding (bruxism) is associated with teeth misalignment, and it can cause damage to the tooth enamel, gums, and jaw.
- Sensitivity or pain in the tooth and gums: Misaligned teeth can create discomfort and abrasion.
Your dentist will likely notice a malocclusion during an exam or cleaning. If you’re concerned about misalignment, bring it up with them. They may take x-rays to gain a better understanding of your bite and alignment issues.
Some clear aligner providers (including Byte) also offer an affordable at-home impression kit to see if clear aligners are an option for you and your smile. Byte will refund you for the kit if it’s determined you’re not a candidate.
Common Types of Misaligned Teeth
Some of the most common types of malocclusion include the following:
- Crossbite: The upper teeth fit behind (inside) lower teeth. A posterior crossbite affects the back teeth. An anterior crossbite affects the teeth in the front. A crossbite can cause jaw shifting, tooth enamel ware, and uneven jaw growth.
- Underbite: The lower jaw juts in front of the upper jaw. Underbites can affect appearance, damage tooth enamel, and negatively impact jaw joints.
- Open bite: Top and bottom teeth do not meet as they should. With an anterior open bite, the back teeth come together but don’t meet in the front. With a posterior open bite, the front teeth meet but don’t come together in the back. Open bites can cause eating and swallowing problems as well as speech issues.
- Deep bite: The upper teeth cover too much of the bottom teeth when the bite is closed. Deep bites can cause gum irritation and inflammation as well as tooth enamel wear.
- Crowding: There is not enough space for teeth. Teeth may appear to overlap or stagger. Crowding can make it hard to clean the teeth, resulting in cavities, decay, and gum problems.
- Spacing: There is too much space between teeth. This may affect only an area of the mouth, and it can be caused by an oversized jaw, missing teeth, or teeth that are too small. Bacteria and food particles may accumulate in between the teeth, increasing the risk of decay and gum problems.
- Protrusion: Also called buck teeth, these are front teeth that protrude forward. They may be the result of jaw issues or the teeth growing in at an angle. They can result in dry mouth and oral health issues, impact appearance, and cause speech problems.
Causes of Misaligned Teeth
There are many reasons for misaligned teeth, including heredity and personal habits. Genetics is the most common cause. If your parents had misaligned teeth, you are likely to as well. Jaw and tooth shape can be influenced by genetics.
Other causes of misalignment include the following:
- Childhood habits like thumb sucking
- Tongue thrusting, or pushing your tongue against your teeth rather than the roof of your mouth
- Impacted teeth, crowding from wisdom teeth, and abnormally shaped teeth
- Poor dental fillings or missing teeth
- Accidents that cause dental misalignment
- Poorly fitting oral appliances like braces, aligners, retainers, or bite guards
- One jaw that is too small to fit the other jaw, causing misaligned teeth
- Tumors in the mouth or jaw
- Mouth breathing, which may alter your jaw development and increase the likelihood of dental misalignment.
You may not notice if your teeth are misaligned, but you may struggle with cavities, off-white teeth, face or jaw pain, and other oral health problems.
Treatment for Misaligned Teeth
How your malocclusion is treated will depend on the type and severity of your orthodontic problem. Possible treatment options include the following:
- Surgery: In the most severe cases of malocclusion, or in cases in which a serious alignment problem is the result of a skeletal or jaw placement issue, surgery may be required to allow for teeth to be moved into proper position.
- Tooth removal: If your orthodontic issue includes major crowding, your dentist may recommend tooth extraction as part of your treatment plan. Removing teeth may provide the extra space needed when shifting teeth during treatment.
- Braces: Small brackets are cemented to teeth and connected by wires and elastics, which are tightened regularly by an orthodontist to apply continuous pressure in order to move teeth into place. Braces are a popular treatment option for many orthodontic issues. For some more serious issues, they may be the only option.\ \ In addition to traditional metal braces, other (usually more expensive) braces choices include ceramic “invisible” braces and lingual braces, which are applied to the back of teeth.
- Clear aligners: Like braces, clear aligners use gentle pressure to shift teeth into optimal positions. But unlike braces, aligners are virtually invisible and removable.\ \ After an image of your current bite is created through a tooth scan or impression kit, specialists and software analyze where your teeth need to move for the best possible alignment. A series of aligners are then designed. Each one fits comfortably over your teeth while applying gentle pressure to encourage movement.\ \ As you progress through your set of aligners, your teeth move on their journey to correct positioning. After you finish your last aligner tray, your teeth will have reached their destination and your smile will be ready.
Can you Prevent Misaligned Teeth?
Most malocclusion problems are hereditary, and there isn’t anything that can be done to prevent them.
However, there are some causes and complications of misaligned teeth that can be avoided.
Preventing Complications from Malocclusions
While most teeth misalignment issues can’t be avoided, you can take steps to prevent problems that may arise from them.
- Practice an effective daily oral hygiene routine. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using an antimicrobial mouthwash will help ensure you’re doing your best to prevent cavities, decay, and oral health problems. Be sure to pay extra attention to any problem areas caused by misalignment, like spaces or narrow areas between teeth.
- Stay current on your regular dentist visits. Your dentist will be able to monitor your malocclusion and determine if it needs treatment or if it’s getting any worse. Your dentist will also identify any oral health problems that could be happening as a result of your misalignment. If you’re continuously getting cavities or experiencing gum problems, it may be a sign that your malocclusion is in need of treatment.
- Correct your misalignment. Many adults may avoid treating their misalignment, fearing they’ll have to wear metal braces every day or deal with a hefty orthodontist bill. But treating a problematic bite and smile can have a huge impact on your oral health (which is directly connected to your overall health), boost your self-confidence, and prevent more serious problems – like gum disease and tooth loss – in the future.Modern options like clear at-home aligners make orthodontic treatment faster, more convenient, and easier than ever before.
Using Byte To Help with Misaligned Teeth
Having properly aligned teeth is not just about having a perfect smile. It’s also about keeping your mouth as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Misalignment can cause pain, tooth damage, oral infections, cavities, and even muscle pain in the jaw, face, and neck.
Rather than suffering through problems due to misaligned teeth, you can work to correct these issues if they are causing damage to your oral health. One of the simplest, least expensive methods for realigning teeth are clear aligners, which are not noticeable and typically do not require long-term use.
Byte: A Leader in Clear Aligners
With top reviews, fast results, and competitive and straightforward pricing, Byte’s a leader in clear aligner technology — and an easy choice for adults looking to correct their mild-to-moderate orthodontic problems without spending a fortune or wearing braces.
With Byte, your entire orthodontic treatment can be completed from the comfort of your own home — no in-office visits required. With Byte’s clear and removable aligners, the average treatment time is 4 months.
Depending on your dental insurance plan, some coverage may be available. Byte has partnerships with some dental insurance plans and may be able to guide you through the process. Without insurance, there’s a one-time charge of $1,999 (easy payment plans are also available).
The Byte Process
The process begins with an at-home impression kit. When you send it back, Byte will determine if you’re a candidate for their clear and removable aligners. If you’re not, they’ll refund you the cost of the impression kit.
If you are and decide to continue, your treatment plan will be designed, and a set of custom aligners will be created and shipped to you. You’ll wear each tray for about two weeks, checking in virtually during your doctor-supervised treatment. After your last tray, your teeth will have reached their optimal positioning.
Get More with your Aligner Kit
As a trusted name in teeth straightening aligners, Byte offers unrivaled value and support. In addition to access to their user-friendly app where you can monitor treatment progress and communicate with your support team, Byte includes the innovative and research-backed HyperByte high-frequency massage tool with every aligner kit.1
Byte’s commitment to customer care doesn’t end after treatment. You’ll receive your first retainer free, and the Byte for Life guarantee ensures that should your teeth shift after completing treatment and wearing your retainer, you’ll receive the extra care aligners you need to get your smile back.
Malocclusion of Teeth. Mount Sinai. Date fetched: November 22, 2022.
Braces. MouthHealthy by the American Dental Association. Date fetched: November 22, 2022.
Look and Feel Better on Zoom with these Cosmetic Enhancement Tips. Date fetched: November 22, 2022.
Malocclusion. (November 2021). Cleveland Clinic. Date fetched: November 22, 2022.
Malocclusion of Teeth. (April 2021). National Library of Medicine. Date fetched: April 28, 2021.
What Causes Crooked Teeth? Colgate. Date fetched: April 28, 2021.
Mouth Breathing. (April 2022). Cleveland Clinic. Date fetched: November 22, 2022.
Dry Mouth. (February 2018). Mayo Clinic. Date fetched: November 22, 2022.
What Is an Open Bite? (November 2022). Colgate. Date fetched: November 22, 2022.
Malocclusion (Misaligned Teeth). (September 2022). Merck Manuals, Consumer Version. Date fetched: April 28, 2021.
7 Common Bite Problems in Children and Adults. (March 2019). American Association of Orthodontists. Date fetched: November 25, 2022.
Misaligned Teeth and Jaws: Overview. (January 2020). Informed Health. Date fetched: April 28, 2021.
Two Options for Replacing Lost Teeth. (November 2016). Harvard Medical School. Date fetched: November 22, 2022.
Oral Hygiene. (April 2021). Cleveland Clinic. Date fetched: November 22, 2022.
Oral Health: A Window to Your Overall Health. (October 2021). Mayo Clinic. Date fetched: November 22, 2022.
Best Invisible Braces and Teeth Aligners of 2023. (January 2023). Forbes. Date fetched: January 17, 2022.
1 The Effects of Brief Daily Vibration on Clear Aligner Orthodontic Treatment. Journal of the World Federation of Orthodontists. Date fetched: October 15, 2022.