What is an Underbite?
An underbite is a dental condition where the lower teeth sit further than the upper teeth. This condition is classified as Class III malocclusion and causes pain and discomfort. Many even feel conscious of the underbite which affects their confidence level.
Some cases of underbite are mild and nearly unnoticeable while others are quite severe where the lower teeth extend far forward.
It is more than just a cosmetic issue. Severe cases require treatment as they may cause oral health problems like:
- Mouth and face pain due to jaw misalignment
- Difficulty in biting and chewing
- Challenges with speaking
What Causes Underbite?
Several factors can lead to an underbite. Here are some underbite causes:
Stop your kid from prolonged thumb sucking, extended pacifier use, pushing on teeth with their tongue and long-term bottle feeding.
These childhood habits may increase the risk of developing an underbite.
In most cases, an underbite is inherited. If at least one other person in your family has it, you are more likely to get it. Genetics also play a role in deciding a person’s jaw, tooth shape, and size.
Any kind of injury to the face may cause permanent damage to the jawbones. Though it is possible to repair the broken jawbones, they may not always fit together properly after being surgically realigned. This may cause an underbite.
A tumor on the jawbone or in the mouth may cause the jaw to protrude. This results in an underbite.
What Issues Does an Underbite Cause?
The problems associated with an underbite can range from mild to severe depending on the degree of the underbite. The complications can affect both physical and mental health.
Chronic jaw pain or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is a common side effect. Your jaw will feel ‘locked’ or ‘stuck’ and result in popping sensations. It causes considerable pain in the jaw. Some side effects of TMJ include toothaches, headaches, dizziness, and earaches.
These are a few problems associated with an underbite:
- Bad Childhood Habits
- Eating and chewing difficulties
- Halitosis and bacterial infections
- Chronic mouth breathing
- Speech Issues
- Sleep apnea and snoring
- Tooth decay from excessive wear of tooth enamel
Apart from physical issues, an underbite can affect a person mentally and psychologically. They might suffer from low self-esteem and confidence.
Thankfully, an underbite is easy to spot and doctors can fix it. Underbite correction is possible at any age and for any level of severity.
How to Correct Underbite?
There are severe underbite treatment methods that can correct an underbite.
Underbite braces or clear aligners can also correct milder cases. Sometimes, surgery and clear aligners may be recommended together to repair an underbite.
- Upper Jaw Expander: This is a wire-frame device that is fitted across the patient’s palate. Every night, a special key is used to widen the expander by a little. This process will gradually cause the upper jaw to widen until the lower underbite teeth no longer protrude out. You would usually wear the expander for about a year and then use a retainer. This is used for young patients like kids and pre-teenagers.
- Reverse-Pull Face Mask: This is another solution for young patients and looks like a brace headgear. It wraps around the child’s head and pulls the upper jaw back into the right position. It uses metal bands fastened to the upper back teeth.
- Underbite Surgery: In extreme cases or for older patients, underbite surgery is recommended. It reshapes and shortens the lower jaw. In some cases, the upper law can also be lengthened to cover the lower teeth. Screws, plates, and wires may be used to maintain the proper shape of the jawbone. Underbite jaw surgery comes with some risks such as infection, scarring, and general anesthesia.
- Cosmetic Approach: This is an underbite correction without surgery where the orthodontists reshape the lower teeth. After that veneers are fitted to the upper teeth. This method doesn’t necessarily solve the problem but it makes the underbite less prominent and improves the jaw functionality sufficiently.