Overbite, Underbite & Crossbite – How to fix them?

When our jaws are working correctly you likely won’t think about it at all - but any misalignment of your bite can have an impact on how you chew, as well as your overall health....

Just like teeth and gums, your jaw also plays a major part in your oral health. When our jaws are working correctly you likely won’t think about it at all - but any misalignment of your bite can have an impact on how you chew, as well as your overall health.

If your teeth are positioned in perfect alignment, the top row will slightly overlap the bottom row. However, if your front row of teeth is pronounced or the bottom row is further forward, you may have an overbite, underbite, or crossbite.

To protect your enamel and your overall oral health you should know the signs that your bite is out of alignment and be aware of solutions that a dental professional can offer to fix an overbite or underbite.

What is an overbite and what causes it?

If your dentist mentions your front teeth being further forward than the back row, this is the definition of what an overbite is. In most cases, this will be a slight misalignment but you may also suffer from a severe overbite.

The reasons for teeth overbite may be hereditary or be linked to oral habits that can develop at an early age.

1. Genetics

As an overbite is most commonly caused by the size and shape of your jaw or your teeth, the most common reason you may have one is your oral genetics.

2. Grinding Teeth

Grinding your teeth is more common in children and along with sucking your thumb beyond the expected age, these habits can lead to misalignment of your jaw and lead to overbite problems as your jaw develops.

3. TMJ

The TMJ is the temporomandibular joint and it’s located ahead of your ears on either side of your head. This connective joint controls your jaw’s movement and if you suffer from a TMJ disorder this can lead to an overbite. A TMJ disorder may be caused by arthritis, jaw injuries, or tension in your head and neck. The TMJ symptoms you may experience include TMJ pain in your jaw and an ache in your face, ears, or neck.

How to fix an overbite?

Dentists considering how to fix an overbite will generally refer you to an orthodontist for one of the following methods:

1. Braces

The ideal time to use braces for an overbite is between 10 and 14 years old. However, a misaligned bite can be straightened at adult ages too, though your treatment may take longer.

If you opt for this corrective method, it is worth knowing the best electric toothbrush for cleaning around braces.

2. Teeth removal

In severe cases of mouth crowding, a surgical procedure such as tooth removal may be recommended as the ideal overbite treatment.

3. Surgery

If your malocclusion is related to your jaw or skeletal issues, it is likely your dentist or an orthodontist would recommend overbite surgerytocorrectthe misalignment.

What is an underbite and what causes it?

If your lower jaw extends out further than your upper front teeth, then your dentist will likely explain what an underbite is. Thismalocclusion can be mild but if this lower jaw misalignment is severe it can cause difficulty with chewing or speaking and be a source of pain in your mouth and face.

1. Genetics

Anunderbite is most often an inherited issue as you are more likely to develop one if another family member also displays this malocclusion.

2. Mouth Breathing

The mouth shape and tongue positionof people that have teeth with an underbite are more likely to breathe through their mouth. As the mouth develops this only encourages the upper jaw’s growth and may cause uneven alignment.

3. Childhood Habits

Causes of an underbite thatoriginate in childhood can include thumb sucking, pushing on the teeth with the tongue, use of a dummy beyond the age of three, and bottle feeding beyond infancy.

Complications with an Underbite:

1. Pain

The unnatural jaw position of an underbite puts an unusual strain on your mouth and the surrounding joints which can cause jaw pain.

2. Misaligned teeth

As your bite will not be applying equal pressure, an underbite can push teeth out of alignment as you chew.

3. Gum disease

The effects of a misaligned bite can include gum disease as this unnatural movement can damage enamel and cause tooth decay.

4. Chewing difficulties

Another reason underbite correctionisoften recommended by dentists is that you may experience difficulty with chewing and swallowing food.

5. Altered face shape

The jaw position of an underbite can dramatically affect the appearance of your face so it may be a cosmetic concern. The combined effects of an altered face shape, chronic discomfort, and complications such as speaking or breathing difficulties can lead people to seek out underbite correction treatments.

How to fix an underbite?

Underbite correction is almost always recommended by dentists, as an underbite will not reverse on its own, unlike an overbite.

1. Teeth removal

Beyond childhood, methods such as tooth extraction are more likely to be recommended for underbite correction as this can release pressure caused by overcrowding and make your jaw more comfortable.

2. Braces

For children and teenagers with an underbite, braces are an ideal solution to adjust misalignment as the jaw develops.

3. Surgery

Another orthodontic treatment that is more likely to be recommended to adults is underbite surgery which moves the upper jaw forward.

What is crossbite and what causes it?

A crossbiteinvolves your top row of teeth on either side of your mouth resting inside your bottom teeth.

1. Genetics

If your crossbite is skeletal or dental it is likely to be genetic. However, there are other circumstantial and behaviour based causes of a crossbite.

2. Mouth Breathing

The effect of mouth breathing on your palate positioning and development of your teeth can lead to you developing a tooth crossbite issue.

3. Delayed Eruption of Permanent Teeth

As your baby teeth [AS1] can be delayed in falling out or your adult teeth delayed in coming through, either can lead your jaw to move into an anterior crossbite to compensate.

4. Childhood Habits

Finally, childhood habits such as thumb sucking for an extended period may contribute to a crossbite teeth configuration.

How to fix a crossbite?

1. Clear Aligners (like Invisalign)

Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign is transparent and moulded to your teeth contours making for an ideal crossbite solution.

2. Braces

The more noticeable type of braces for a crossbite solution are metal brackets and these are the least expensive orthodontic solution available.

3. Rapid Palatal Expander (RPE)

If your crossbite has a skeletal cause, orthodontic appliances are recommended which fit behind your teeth and use constant gentle pressure to move the bone and teeth further outward.

4. Reverse-Pull Headgear (Face mask)

For pre-teen patients, the reverse-pull headgear is used to increase jaw mobility and is attached with rubber bands to braces. It is worn throughout the day to change the jaw’s position and can avoid the need for surgery.

5. Jaw Surgery

For adults with more severe symptoms, crossbite surgery to correctly reset the jaw’s alignment is recommended.