What is an underbite?
A properly aligned jaw should have the top teeth slightly overlapping bottom teeth. But when this alignment is disturbed, problems such as underbite occur.
An underbite is a dental condition in which a patient’s lower jaw extends outwards further than their upper jaw, due to which the bottom teeth sit in front of the upper teeth when the mouth is closed.
Also known as Class III malocclusion or prognathism ranges from minor where they are unnoticeable to severe, where the lower jaw extends far out.
Causes of an underbite
There are a few reasons behind developing an underbite. These reasons include:
Here are some underlying childhood habits that contribute to the development of an underbite:
- Thumb sucking
- Using pacifier until the age of 3
- Pushing teeth with the tongue
- Feeding on a milk bottle beyond the infant years
Genetics even decides the shape of your jaw and teeth, which is why an underbite is hereditary most of the time. If any of your family members has an underbite, your possibility of developing one increases.
Severe face injuries can be a major cause of permanent damages to the jawbones. Through surgeries, you can repair broken jaws. However, jaws don’t always fix properly, which can cause an underbite.
Tumors on the jawbones or in the mouth can cause the protruding of your jaw, leading to an underbite.
Effects of an underbite on your health
From spoiling your appearance to influencing your sleep patterns, an underbite can affect your health in various ways. Here is a list of different health effects an underbite can have:
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)
An underbite can cause a problem with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and can develop a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
A TMJ is a hinge that connects your skull with the jaw. But an underbite can lock your TMJ in one position, developing a TMD. You might hear popping sounds when you try to move it, which will lead to excruciating pain.
- Chronic Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Because of an underbite, you might develop bacteria in your mouth. The buildup will lead to bad breath.
- Mouth Breathing
If you are finding yourself snoring heavily at night or are breathing from your mouth, an underbite can be a significant cause behind it.
- Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing at different points during the night, due to which you cannot sleep well. This leads to tiredness and dullness throughout the day.
These dire effects of an underbite are not to be taken lightly. So check with an orthodontist and fix it immediately.
At what age should you check and fix an underbite?
An early diagnosis will lead to early treatment. It is better to get started with orthodontic treatments to correct an underbite in childhood. Bones are malleable and easily coerced into proper alignment at a young age.
Treatments for an underbite
Underbite treatments are more successful during childhood and the pre-teen years as the jaw is moldable. However, that does not mean that an adult cannot be treated.
The following is a list of treatments you will need to correct your underbite.
- Braces & Invisalign
Braces and Invisalign are used to treat mild cases of underbite by straightening your teeth and realigning your jaw. After your braces treatment, you may need to wear a retainer to keep the shape intact.
- Elastics on Braces
Elastics are applied on braces to increase the force applied to a specific area of your mouth. They connect to the brackets on your braces and can be positioned in many different conformations.
In severe cases of underbite, surgery is the suggested solution for adults.
How to fix an underbite in a child?
Since the jaw is malleable in childhood, it is recommended to fix an underbite during that time. For some children, the underbite might correct itself. However, if it does not correct itself, the parents must wait for the child to turn at least 7 to go for corrective underbite treatment such as:
- Chin Cap
This device is wrapped around your child’s chin and lower jaw to prevent it from growing into the wrong shape.
- Upper Jaw Expander
A palatal expander is a device placed on the roof of the mouth and widens each night. This increases the size of the dental arch while also aligning the upper and lower jaws properly.
- Facemask Therapy
Facemask therapy includes a facemask, a device that is worn on the face which rests on your forehead and chin. Elastics are attached between your upper jaw and the device, which will pull the upper jaw forward and realign both the upper and lower jaws.
The facemask needs to be worn for at least 16 hours a day for about one year.
Overbite Vs Underbite
In an overbite, the upper teeth protrude the lower teeth, covering them partially or entirely. While in an underbite, lower teeth protrude out, affecting your cosmetic appearance and being a leading cause of TMD.
We recommend these alignment issues be solved during childhood. Book an appointment with us today for hassle-free orthodontic treatment.
Dr. Brian Thurman has spent his entire life enjoying all the beauty that California has to offer. A Fresno native, he still escapes to the ocean or the mountains whenever his busy schedule allows. Driven by his love for natural beauty, Dr. Thurman enjoys creating beautiful smiles and healthy bites that last a lifetime. He is proud to be the only Ivy League trained Orthodontist in the Fresno/Clovis area.