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Common Orthodontic Problems – First Understanding Straight Teeth
By Stephen Yang, DMD, MS
Board Certified Orthodontist
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To recognize orthodontic problems, it is necessary to first understand what a set of ideal teeth look like and how teeth fit together in an ideal bite.

Ideal Upper and Lower Arches

Upper and lower teeth are aligned in a U-shaped arch with no spaces between the teeth.

Orthodontics braces make straight teeth from crooked upper teeth Orthodontics braces make straight teeth from crooked lower teeth
Ideal bite viewed from front
Orthodontic front view straight not crooked teeth, ideal bite

The upper arch overlaps the lower arch slightly from the last molar on one side all the way around to the other side.  Notice that in an ideal bite, the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth creating a mild “overbite.”  (The correct orthodontic term for “overbite” is overjet.  Overbite actually refers to the vertical, not horizontal overlap of the front teeth.)  Normal overbite and overjet is 2-3 millimeters.  In a normal bite, the upper midline is in line with the lower midline.

For children with baby teeth, you may notice some mild spacing.  This spacing is normal because the adult teeth that will replace the baby teeth are generally larger and require more space to come in straight. 

Ideal bite viewed from the side
Orthodontic side view straight not crooked teeth, ideal bite

Notice that when biting from the side, the teeth fit together similarly to the teeth of a zipper.  This provides a stable bite where most teeth occlude (bite) against two other teeth.  Notice the mild overbite where the front teeth occlude.  Many patients and parents come into the office complaining about their overbites, only to be told that their mild overbite is normal.  If there is no overbite, teeth will wear down abnormally so having a mild overbite actually protects the teeth from abnormal wear.  Of course, having a large overbite can be problematic. 

Now that you understand what a set of ideal teeth and bite look like, you will hopefully be able to spot orthodontic problems better.  Follow the links below to see Common Orthodontic Problems in Children or Teens and Adults.

Orthodontic Problems in Children - Baby teeth present
Orthodontic Problems in Teens and Adults - No baby teeth present
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Braces Problems Video
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