What is an Underbite, and How is it Caused?Otherwise known as Class III Malocclusion, an underbite is a dental condition that causes the lower jaw to extend past the upper jaw. There are different levels of underbites, ranging from mild to severe. Mild underbites aren’t always detectable unless you take a closer look. Severe underbite causes the lower jaw to protrude so far outward that other people notice it immediately. An underbite is not just a cosmetic problem – it’s an oral health issue that needs to be addressed. It causes problems with the teeth and jaw. In addition, it causes wear of the front teeth and increases their susceptibility to chipping and breakage. Misalignment of the jaw also affects one’s smile, causing patients to feel self-conscious. This harms your self-confidence and social life. The causes of an underbite vary and may include genetics, injury, tumours, and childhood habits.
Childhood HabitsSome childhood habits that increase the risk of an underbite include;
- Use of pacifier after the age of 3
- Thumb sucking
- Long-term feeding from a bottle after the infant years
- Pushing teeth with the tongue
InjurySevere facial injuries can damage the jawbones. And while it’s possible to repair damaged jawbones, they don’t always fit well after a surgical realignment. This can lead to an underbite.
GeneticsThe jaw, tooth shape, and size often depend on genetics. Therefore, it’s natural that you may inherit an underbite if someone in your family has it. For example, you may be born with teeth that are too close together. Others have abnormally shaped teeth that don’t fit. A palate, cleft lip, and other defects that appear at birth also cause an underbite.
TumoursA tumour in the mouth or jawbone increases the risk of an underbite. They do this by displacing the alignment of your teeth.
Why Treat an Underbite?An underbite compromises chewing function, giving you a bad bite. It also affects pronunciation and speech. Severe cases of underbite can cause serious dental issues like:
- Chronic jaw pain
- Chronic mouth breathing, halitosis, and bacterial infections
- Tooth decay due to wear of the enamel
- Cracked or worn-down teeth
How to Treat an UnderbiteThe treatment method for an underbite depends on the severity of the condition and the patient’s age. However, mild underbite cases don’t require a surgical procedure. The most common treatments for an underbite include:
BracesBraces are orthopaedic devices used for gradual teeth straightening. Traditional braces consist of ceramic or steel brackets attached to the teeth. Flexible wires connect the brackets. While effective for gradually altering the position of teeth, braces cause soreness. They can also be aesthetically unappealing.
Orthognathic SurgeryThis procedure is more commonly known as jaw surgery, and it moves the lower jaw backwards. It pushes the upper teeth forward, ensuring that the lower teeth are behind the upper ones. While quicker than other treatments, oral surgery carries a risk of complications. Surgery is also uncomfortable and more expensive than non-surgical correction options.
Reverse Full-Face MasksA reverse full-face mask is designed for children under the age of 10. It fits around the head, pulling the upper jaw forward. Reverse full-face masks are pretty effective for correcting an underbite. Unfortunately, they only work for younger children. In addition, many patients find it hard to use the device for the recommended 16 hours each day. This is because reverse full-face masks look and feel unpleasant.
Palate ExpandersA palate expander enlarges the top of the mouth, pushing upper teeth into place over the lower teeth. It is the best underbite treatment option for patients under 12 because the jawbone is still developing. Palate expanders can also be used to treat underbite in adult patients. They are more discreet than braces and work fast. However, palate expanders have limited applications in adults and cause soreness.
Cosmetic Dentistry FaceliftA dentist may recommend creative cosmetic dentistry to correct an underbite. They first determine the best jaw position then builds out the upper dental arch. Restorations like veneers and crowns are used for this procedure. The result is an improved jaw position and a more natural bite. A cosmetic dentistry facelift is an option for patients with cosmetic concerns like old fillings, gaps, and tooth decay. While this technique doesn’t necessarily change teeth placement, it still works for underbite correction. That’s because cosmetic dentistry facelift mimicks proper jaw alignment.
Clear AlignersClear aligners are helpful for more than just teeth straightening. Clear braces are also beneficial for correcting mild to moderate overbite and underbite. They shift your teeth into alignment over time. You need to wear aligners for at least 22 hours each day for up to a year to correct your underbite. Clear braces work by applying constant pressure, pushing your teeth into position. They offer multiple advantages over braces. For starters, they are nearly invisible and discreet. In addition, you can remove them when eating or drinking. Aligners are effective, cheap, and customizable to a patient’s needs. It’s worth noting that a dentist may need to remove some teeth from the lower jaw to make room for aligners.
Teeth Straightening with Aligners at SmilePathClear aligners are a non-invasive treatment for underbite that straightens your teeth for a beautiful smile. It is an effective and affordable treatment for an underbite. However, correcting your underbite starts with a consultation at SmilePath. We offer a variety of clear braces, including NightOnly Clear Aligners, which you only need to wear at night. Take a free assessment for an underbite correction and a straighter smile.
Olsen, J. A., & Inglehart, M. R. (2011). Malocclusions and perceptions of attractiveness, intelligence, and personality, and behavioral intentions. American journal of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics : official publication of the American Association of Orthodontists, its constituent societies, and the American Board of Orthodontics, 140(5), 669–679. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajodo.2011.02.025
Burke, D. (2021, February 18). Malocclusion of the Teeth. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/malocclusion-of-teeth