Crossbites and Underbites and Overbites, Oh My!
Has your dentist or orthodontist ever said you have a crossbite, underbite or overbite? If so, did you wonder what they were talking about? Also known as malocclusions, these types of bites aren’t as scary as they sound and can be fixed with the proper treatment.
What it means: A crossbite is when an upper tooth fits behind a lower tooth or a lower tooth fits behind an upper tooth. The upper teeth are meant to overlap the lowers when you bite down. If just one or two adult teeth aren’t meeting up properly, it may because of the way they came in. Sometimes this happens when a baby tooth doesn’t fall out properly and the permanent tooth comes in around it. If your crossbite involves several teeth, you may be experiencing a narrow or small upper or lower jaw.
How it can be fixed: Crossbites caused by a single tooth or two can often be fixed by wearing braces or Invisalign, both of which will move the teeth to their proper places. Crossbites caused by a narrow jaw may require a palatal expander, which will gradually expand the width of the jaw and the teeth will follow within the jaw bone.
What it means: An underbite occurs when your bottom teeth go in front of your top teeth when you bite down. An easy way to picture an underbite is to think of a bulldog, whose bottom teeth are in front of the top ones. While most underbite cases in people aren’t nearly as pronounced, it can still cause irregular tooth wear and cause a person to be self-conscious about their smile.
How it can be fixed: Underbites can be caused by a couple different factors that require different treatments. Mild underbites are often the result of the bottom teeth being tilted outward or the top teeth being tilted inward. This type of underbite may be treated with braces that move the tilted teeth back into place. Undergrowth of the upper jaw or overgrowth of the lower jaw also cause underbites and may require braces as well as a surgical procedure to one or both jaws.
What it means: When you close your mouth, having your top teeth overlap your bottom teeth a certain amount is normal. However, if they overlap too much it results in an overbite. Overbites are the most common type of bite issue and are often caused by genetics—if you have an overbite, chances are one or both of your parents did too. Overbites also occur when young children use pacifiers for extended periods of time or suck their thumbs because these habits affect their jaws as they are forming.
How it can be fixed: If your teeth are crowded and causing an overbite, removing a few can give more space for your front teeth to move back in your upper jaw and not stick out over your bottom teeth as much. Rubber bands properly placed on braces or select appliances can also bring your upper jaw back in line with your lower jaw over time. Extreme cases, particularly in adults whose jaws are no longer growing, may be treated with surgery.
While many people get their bites fixed because they aren’t happy with the way their smiles look, these issues aren’t simply cosmetic. Misaligned teeth can cause unusual wear, chewing difficulties, and jaw pain if they are left untreated. While it is often easier to change a child’s bite because their jaws are still growing, there are many effective treatments for adults as well.
If you think you or your child has a crossbite, underbite, or overbite, set up a free exam at one of our offices by calling (843) 4-BRACES to find out for sure and to discuss treatment options.
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