A malocclusion is when the teeth do not fit together normally. Orthodontics is the field of assessment and treatment (when needed) of malocclusions. Malocclusions can either be a dental malocclusion, where one or more teeth are in an abnormal position, or a skeletal malocclusion, where the lower jaw is either too long (underbite) or too short (overbite). If a malocclusion such as overbite or underbite that is causing damage is not treated, it can cause chronic pain or damage to soft tissues and other teeth in the dog or cat. Treatment of a malocclusion falls into one of 2 categories: Moving the affected tooth/teeth into a position where they will not cause additional damage, or reducing the size of the tooth (or removing it altogether) to prevent further damage.
Moving the teeth can be accomplished by one of several types of metal or acrylic appliances, springs, elastic bands or tubing on buttons or hooks, and multiple other types of adjustments.
The other option for treatment of a malocclusion is to reduce the size of the affected tooth in order to prevent further damage. This is accomplished by crown reduction, which involves cutting off the affected tooth/teeth and treating the resulting exposed pulp tissue by root canal therapy or vital pulp therapy. Yet another approach to eliminating a malocclusion is interceptive orthodontics, which means extracting one or more strategic teeth that are involved in the malocclusion. The recommended approach depends upon which tooth/teeth are involved, along with other factors.
All malocclusions have the potential to be genetic and hereditary. All animals have the right to a comfortable, pain free occlusion. However, pets with malocclusions should not be bred. All pets with a malocclusion should be spayed or neutered. Pets with a malocclusion should not be used for conformation showing.