It may be a new word to you. "Malocclusion" is a technical term for crooked, crowded or protruding teeth which do not fit together properly. Literally, the word means "bad bite."

Most malocclusions are inherited. These include crowding of teeth, too much space between teeth, extra or missing teeth, cleft palate and a variety of irregularities of the jaws and face.

Some malocclusions are acquired. They can be caused by thumb-sucking, tongue thrusting, dental disease, premature loss of primary or permanent teeth, accidents or some medical problems.

Left untreated, these orthodontic problems can become worse. Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. This may contribute to conditions that may cause tooth decay, eventual gum disease and tooth loss. A bad bite can also cause abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, difficulty in chewing and excess stress of the supporting bone and gum tissue.