A healthy smile usually involves straight teeth and proper alignment, but what if you have crooked teeth or a jaw protrusion, like an underbite? Many people have imperfections in their smiles that can be fixed with proper treatment, including underbites.
If you have questions about underbites, this post is for you! Read on to learn everything you ever need to know about the malocclusion, including how to fix an underbite.
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, if your jaw’s shape and alignment created your underbite, then surgery may be the best option.
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!