Having bite problems can be troublesome for a number of reasons. For example, if your jaws don’t align correctly, you may experience discomfort or pain while chewing, or you might even hear clicking noises when you open and close your mouth — but bite problems can impact your looks and self-esteem, too. A misaligned jaw can impact the profile of your face and your teeth may appear crowded or crooked.
There are multiple different kinds of jaw misalignments (otherwise known as “malocclusions”), although the most common are overbites and underbites — and we do mean “common”. Almost 70% of children exhibit signs of an overbite and around one in every 20 people have an underbite!
The good news is that overbites and underbites are treatable and we can help move your jaws back into alignment via orthodontic treatments like braces and Invisalign. In this article, we explain how to fix an overbite or an underbite, so you know what to expect when you visit your dentist.
What is an overbite?
An “overbite” is when the upper teeth stick out too far over the bottom teeth. It is quite normal for the teeth to overlap over the bottom teeth a little bit — in fact, this is preferred for optimal chewing movements. However, when an overbite is more severe, it can cause a number of unpleasant side effects like jaw stiffness, problems with chewing and biting, lockjaw, popping noises in the jaw and persistent earaches or headaches.
The most common cause of a severe overbite is the shape and size of the jaw or the teeth. You might have too much room in the jaw or too little room to accommodate your teeth. If left untreated, this can cause the teeth to crowd each other and grow crooked, or the teeth will be spaced apart if there’s not enough space.
Other causes include:
- In infants and children — Frequent thumb-sucking or the overuse of a bottle/pacifier
- In teens and adults — Nail-biting and chewing objects like pencils
- All — Genetics, grinding teeth and temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).
How to fix an overbite
Wondering how to fix an overbite? The treatment process is quite simple but it is also not fast. We will start by taking an x-ray to determine the kind of overbite you have and the relationship between the teeth and the jaws. From here, we will be able to create a treatment plan.
For kids and teens, this may involve:
- The removal of baby teeth to make room for permanent teeth to grow in straight
- Braces or Invisalign to correct the overbite and the jaw
- Retainers post-braces to keep the teeth and jaws in place.
In adults, this may involve:
- Braces to move the teeth into the correct position
- Surgery for jaw problems/skeletal-type overbites
- Teeth removal (we will avoid this as much as possible).
Overbite before and after braces
Image: Brodsky Orthodontics (USA)
In the image above, an American orthodontist treated a teenage boy for severe overbite and crowding using Invisalign. The result was exceptional — and we have achieved the same for many of our own patients. For more information about overbite treatment, please get in touch to book a consultation today!
What is an underbite?
An underbite is where the lower teeth extend farther than the upper teeth, causing a misalignment in the jaw. There are different levels of underbites — in a mild case, you might not even notice that you have an underbite. In more severe cases, the jaw protrudes outward so far that it may be visible to other people.
An underbite can cause a number of problematic side effects including difficulty chewing, headaches, speech problems, breathing problems including sleep apnea and dental problems like tooth decay, gingivitis and general wear and tear on the upper teeth.
This class III malocclusion can be caused by the same issues listed above for an overbite e.g. genetics, thumb-sucking in childhood, etc.
How to fix an underbite
If you’re wondering how to fix an underbite, the process is quite simple. Most underbites can be treated using standard orthodontic methods like braces to straighten the teeth and realign the jaw. Like an overbite, you will need to wear a retainer after braces to keep your teeth and jaw in the correct position.
Braces are most effective for mild underbites in childhood and the pre-teen years because the jaw is still somewhat moldable while it’s growing. For adults, treatment often involves surgery to realign the jaw, relieve pain and eliminate sleep apnea.
Other (less common) treatment options include:
- Facemask therapy — This treatment involves a mask that rests on your forehead and chin. Elastics are attached to the upper jaw and to the device to pull your upper jaw forward and realign the top and bottom jaws. This kind of treatment requires a lot of commitment as the mask needs to be worn for 16 hours per day for about a year.
- Elastics — Similar to facemask therapy, the elastics are attached to mini plates that are anchored in the skull. The elastics are worn inside the mouth and pull the upper jaw forward.
Underbite before and after braces
Image: Brodsky Orthodontics (USA)
Again, an American orthodontist treated this patient for a severe underbite/crossbite using Invisalign after jaw surgery. Previously, the patient’s bottom jaw protruded outwards quite severely.
Contact us for more information on how to fix an overbite or underbite
If you are struggling with an overbite or underbite, contact the team at Swansea Dental Practice today! Our experienced orthodontic dentists will examine your teeth and jaws to determine the best possible treatment for your individual case.
Feature Image: Pexels