There’s something pleasing to the eyes about a clean, white and perfectly aligned teeth. Turn on the TV, flip open a magazine or head to the movies and you’re inundated with flawless smiles. But not everyone is so fortunate: many kids and adults suffer from a malocclusion, one type of which is an overbite. Before considering methods of overbite correction, let’s take a look at what the condition is and the reasons it may occur.
What is a malocclusion?
The term “occlusion” refers to the alignment of your teeth. A malocclusion is a deviation or misalignment from a normal occlusion. Overbites, crossbites, underbites and open bites are all types of malocclusions. Overbites, are present when the upper teeth stick out too far beyond the lower teeth. Malocclusions can fall into one of three categories. Class one is when a normal bite is accompanied by a slight overlap of the upper teeth. This is the most common malocclusion. Class two is diagnosed when the overbite is severe, often known as retrognathic. Class three, on the other hand, is a severe underbite – when the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth. It’s referred to as prognathic.
What causes an overbite?
The most common cause of an overbite is the shape and/or size of the jaw or the teeth. This could mean having too much room in the jaw area or too little room to accommodate one’s teeth. If not treated, the overbite will allow the teeth to crowd each other and grow in crooked if there is too little room, or the teeth will be spaced too far apart if the jaw area is too large. In infants and children, habits like thumb-sucking, sustained and consistent pacifier use and overuse of a bottle, which causes pushing the tongue against the back of the teeth, can produce an overbite. In teens and adults, chronic nail biting and chewing of objects such as pencils or other items can cause an overbite. Losing teeth without timely repair can also cause an overbite. According to the American Dental Association, nearly 70 percent of children exhibit the signs of having an overbite. Other causes are:
- Grinding teeth
- (TMJ) Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
What happens if I don’t treat it?
If left untreated, an overbite could cause significant health complications. These include irreparable damage to teeth from abnormal positioning and possible jaw pain including temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ). Other overbite complications include:
- Tooth decay including cavities, gum disease, and worn tooth enamel
- Jaw pain
- Severe headaches
- Discomfort or pain while eating
- Trouble with fully opening or closing mouth
- Sleep apnea
- Difficulty speaking
An untreated overbite could also dramatically alter the facial structure and lead to issues like low self-esteem. If an overbite in early childhood is severe, and continues to worsen, aesthetic deterioration could take place as early as pre-pubescence.
How do I treat and correct an overbite?
Generally, a dentist will refer a patient with an overbite to an orthodontist for treatment. In children, they are easier to treat because a child’s jaw is still in the developmental stages. For children and teens, the most common issue is crowding of teeth in the mouth. For many adults with an overbite problem, the lack of preventative treatment early in life has led to the more severe symptoms associated with overbites. In either case, the orthodontist or dentist will examine the area and write up a treatment plan that can last for up to two years and possibly longer. Initial x-rays will be taken to determine the type of overbite and the relationship between the teeth and the jaw in determining the best treatment. Here are some treatments your orthodontist or dentist may recommend to correct an overbite issue:
Children and Teens
- Removal of baby teeth (making room for permanent teeth to grow in straight)
- Growth modification device (used best during growth spurts) – helps to better position the jaw
- Braces – slowly moves the teeth to correct the overbite as well as the jaw
- Retainers – device used post-braces that help to keep the teeth in place
- Braces – move only the teeth to correct an overbite
- Teeth removal – dentists and orthodontists try to avoid this procedure but will do this in very severe overbite cases to allow the teeth more freedom to move.
- Surgery – jaw problems for skeletal-type overbites can only be corrected with surgery for adults.
If your overbite is causing issues, it’s important to make an appointment with your orthodontist or oral surgeon for treatment. In any case, for both children and adults, the best way to prevent dental issues from occurring is to make sure you visit a dentist early and often. It is recommended for children to get a checkup by age 7 for the detection of an overbite. Adults need to get regular checkups every six to twelve months to ensure early intervention and avoid the potentially severe physical repercussions of leaving an overbite untreated.
If you have any questions about overbites, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.