Would it surprise you to learn that most people have at least a minor overbite or underbite? Not everyone requires treatment, but if you’ve ever been told you have either, you may want to know more about what it means.
Let’s take a look at what an overbite and an underbite are exactly and what the causes are. We’ll even discuss why it’s essential to correct the issues and how to correct an them. Many people have imperfections in their smiles that can be fixed with proper treatment.
If you have questions about overbites or underbites, this post is for you! Read on to learn everything you ever need to know about these malocclusions, including how to fix them.
What is an Overbite?
An overbite is a type of malocclusion, meaning it’s a deviation or misalignment that causes the upper jaw to stick out over the lower jaw. The front upper teeth overlap the bottom teeth and can impact normal teeth and jaw function.
What Does an Overbite Look Like?
Have you ever been told you have buck teeth? Maybe you know somebody who does, or you’ve seen it played up as a facial feature in mainstream media. While an exaggerated bite may seem comical in some situations, it’s not especially amusing for people dealing with severe overbites.
Overbite vs Normal Bite
A normal, healthy bite means all teeth align properly when the jaw closes. The molars line up so that the grooves in the teeth fit together nicely and the upper front teeth only slightly overlap the lower ones. Some people may have such slight overbites that it doesn’t require treatment
Overjet vs Overbite
The term “buck teeth” can describe both of these conditions, but overjet and overbite differ slightly. Overjet refers to the upper front teeth protruding outward resulting from a horizontal misalignment of the teeth. Overbite refers to the vertical misalignment of the jaw causing the front teeth to extend beyond the lower teeth.
What Causes an Overbite?
Usually, an individual develops an overbite due to genetics. That means it is the natural shape or size of their jaw and teeth. Too much or too little jaw space creates problems that can be exacerbated by other behaviors.
Tongue thrusting against the backs of the front teeth over time can cause an overbite. Several factors can lead to repetitive tongue thrusting, including swollen tonsils and stress. Tongue thrusting can happen overnight while you’re sleeping, so you may not even be aware of it!
Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking
It turns out that some of those tales about thumb-sucking and pacifiers causing buck teeth are true. These common childhood behaviors can significantly impact a child’s teeth because of the pressure placed on the front teeth. Pacifiers and thumb-sucking don’t just affect baby teeth either! Overuse can lead to problems with permanent tooth alignment.
Chewing and Nail-Biting
Adults and teens can develop overbites as well. It turns out that chewing inappropriate objects isn’t just a gross bad habit, it could affect your teeth! Gnawing on pencils and your nails can impact tooth alignment.
People who grind their teeth can be at greater risk for developing an overbite. While you can take steps to control the behavior during your waking hours, you may need some help to cease overnight grinding.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
If you’ve ever been diagnosed with TMJ, you could be at risk as well. It’s important to manage the triggers and try to alleviate your symptoms before it affects your bite.
What Happens If You Don’t Correct an Overbite?
Overbites can affect the shape of your face, but it’s not just a question of how you look. Unfortunately, neglecting an overbite can lead to complications and irreparable damage.
- Jaw pain
- Tooth decay due to wear and tear on tooth enamel
- Gum disease due to difficulty cleaning between teeth
- Difficulty eating
- Speech impediments
- Breathing problems
- Sleep apnea
How to Fix an Overbite
Overbite correction may require tooth extraction to correct crowding or palate expanders to create more room for teeth, but orthodontic treatment is the most common approach. Additionally, orthodontic appliances can help treat some contributing factors, like overnight teeth grinding.
Correcting an overbite is most common during childhood years when the jaw can still grow and shift easily. For adults, surgery may be the only option for overbite correction because the jaw can’t grow anymore.
Do Braces Fix Overbite?
Yes! Braces do more than straighten teeth, they can correct bite issues, including overbite. Traditional metal braces and invisible ceramic and clear braces can work wonders on an overbite as long as you follow the treatment plan.
If you don’t like the idea of traditional braces, you could speak with your dentist about trying Invisalign. The clear aligners can successfully correct a malocclusion. You can find examples of overbite before and after treatment on Invisalign’s site or at your orthodontic office.
Correcting an overbite is important for your overall health and can reduce or prevent future problems. If you’re concerned about an overbite, or ready to start orthodontic treatment, the team at Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics can help.
What is an Underbite?
An underbite applies to malocclusions where the lower jaw is positioned so that the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth. Like most dental and orthodontic issues, there can be several degrees from mild misalignments to more pronounced deformities.
What Causes an Underbite?
Most people have their family genes to thank for their underbite. Genetics plays a major part in determining your tooth size and spacing, jaw shape, and even whether you have an underbite or overbite. However, there are additional factors that could contribute to people developing an underbite.
Bad Habits in the Early Years
Has anybody ever told you that sucking your thumb is bad for your teeth? They aren’t wrong. It’s not just thumb-sucking, either. Prolonged pacifier use and long-term bottle-feeding can lead to kids pushing their tongues against their teeth, which in turn could lead to an underbite.
Accidents happen, and when they affect facial bones, especially the jaw, it’s not easy to put everything back together properly. Post-injury repairs may cause an underbite that requires further intervention down the line.
Tumor of the Jaw
Tumors can develop anywhere, including the mouth and jaw, which can impact alignment and cause deformities leading to an underbite.
Side Effects of an Underbite
Having an underbite, especially if it is pronounced, can impact a person’s self-confidence, but it’s usually not just a cosmetic concern. Underbites, like other malocclusions, can lead to additional difficulties including:
- Jaw pain or TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder)
- Difficulty chewing
- Bad breath
- Bacterial infections in the mouth
- Speech impediments
- Tooth decay due to irregular wear and tear on the enamel
- Sleep apnea
Underbite correction may be the best answer for treating some related conditions, like speech impediments and chronic mouth-breathing because it means realigning the jaw to a better position. Of course, correcting an underbite can also do wonders to boost self-confidence.
How to Correct an Underbite
Correcting an underbite can take time, but the treatment varies depending on several factors. A minor underbite may require one treatment while a severe underbite could involve more than one approach.
Your dentist may provide you with more than one option, so it’s a good idea to ask questions about what to expect. Additionally, some dentists and orthodontists can provide underbite before and after images using digital imaging technology like the iTero 3D scanner.
Minor underbites caused by misshapen teeth may benefit from cosmetic correction. The process would involve reshaping the teeth and attaching dental veneers to improve the smile.
Most underbite treatment involves orthodontics, like traditional metal braces or Invisalign clear aligners. However, underbite braces treatment plans may involve more than brackets and wires or trays.
Often, orthodontic appliances used with braces can lead to better results. The most common options are reverse-pull face masks and upper jaw expanders.
- Reverse-pull face masks work for younger children because their bones aren’t yet fused and move easier.
- Upper jaw expanders involve a device fitted along the upper palate. Using a special key, you gradually move the device to expand the upper palate.
Regardless of the orthodontic treatment plan, this method remains the least expensive and less invasive option. While orthodontic treatment may take longer and require excellent compliance to attain the desired result, it’s highly effective.
Severe underbites may require surgical intervention. Sometimes tooth extraction can alleviate the problem if you have too many teeth. However, surgery may be the best option if your jaw’s shape and alignment created your underbite.
Orthognathic Jaw Surgery
Orthognathic jaw surgery involves separating your rear jaw from the front, altering it for a better fit, and then moving it into a better position. It may be outpatient or involve a short hospital stay. Though it takes up to a year to heal completely, you should be able to return to normal activity within a few weeks.
Le Fort III Osteotomy
This surgery requires a surgeon specializing in oral and maxillofacial reconstruction. They shift the individual’s entire face forward to correct the positioning. Expect a typical healing time with a Le Fort III Osteotomy.
Remember, it’s easiest to address an underbite during childhood years, so many pediatric dentists monitor their young patients so that they can catch it early. However, underbites are seen and treated in later years.
If you have concerns about an underbite, the team at Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics can help. Book an appointment at the office nearest you!