Ideally, the teeth of your upper jaw should slightly overlap the teeth on the lower jaw. But in the case of an underbite, the lower jaw teeth protrude and overlaps the upper jaw teeth, giving an unattractive appearance.
Underbite condition is a misalignment of teeth which can cause pain, additional wear and tear of the tooth enamel, alter the speech, and the ability to chew.
It is mostly a genetic condition but, in rare cases, it can result due to childhood habits such as thumb sucking, excessive use of a pacifier, mouth breathing, etc.
There are several underbite correction treatment options available. Some of them are surgical and a few of them are non-surgical.
Non-surgical treatments include upper jaw expander or palatal expander, braces, chin cap, and reverse-pull face mask.
Misaligned teeth can also lower self-esteem and confidence, as they don’t appear attractive as perfectly aligned teeth. The alignment of your bite also has an overall impact on your overall oral health.
What is an underbite?
An underbite, also known as mandibular prognathism occurs when a person’s lower jaw protrudes forward, in front of the upper jaw, giving the chin along with lower teeth a prominence.
The relationship of the contact between the upper and lower teeth is disturbed in an underbite. The majority of underbite cannot be corrected by non-surgical methods, such as braces or headgear.
In severe cases, an underbite can distort the shape and appearance of a person’s face and may even affect their speech. These extreme cases of underbite are also called skeletal malocclusions.
- Suggested read: What is an Open Bite?
Complications of underbite
Depending upon the severity of the underbite, various complications appear as signs of the underbite in our body such as –
- Difficulty in eating
- Severe pain at the temporomandibular joint due to stress caused by protruding jaw
- Altered face shape
- Make teeth more prone to gum and periodontal diseases
- Chronic mouth breathing, halitosis, and bacterial infections
- Snoring and other sleep breathing difficulties
Cause of underbite
Genetic inheritance is the common cause of underbite. Mostly, there is nothing external which can cause this condition. In other words, it cannot be prevented. Underbite runs in the family and people are just born with it. (1)
Less often, some underbite conditions can be caused by childhood behaviors. Childhood habits like extensive thumb sucking, mouth breathing, constant thrusting of the tongue against the teeth, using a pacifier or bottle for a long time, and bad chewing habits can cause the underbite in some cases.
This type of underbite can be prevented by teaching proper chewing habits and helping your child to keep avoiding thumb sucking and tongue thrusting.
Underbite of teeth is often diagnosed through routine dental exams. Your dentist will examine your teeth thoroughly and may perform dental X-rays to determine if your teeth are properly aligned or not.
If malocclusion is detected, then it is classified by its type and severity into different classes. (2)
Underbite correction options
There are both surgical and nonsurgical treatments are available to correct an underbite. It is best to start the treatment when the patient is still young since it is easier to align teeth properly when the jaw is growing.
However, non-surgical treatments can still be effective in adults. (3) Treatment for children includes –
- An upper jaw expander or palatal expander which is an appliance used to expand the upper jaw until the lower teeth no longer close over the outside of the upper jaw. Upper jaw expander is a wire-frame device which a dentist fits across the patient’s palate
- Braces to adjust the misaligned teeth
- A chin cap may help with an underbite, as it restricts the growth of the lower jaw
- The reverse-pull face mask can be used to correct the underbite. It resembles a braces headgear and wraps around the head and pulls the upper jaw back into the correct position using metal bands on to the upper back teeth
On the other hand, treatment for older patients involves more invasive methods to treat underbite. The treatment options for adult patients are –
- Orthognathic jaw surgery (4)
- The maxillofacial surgeon performs a Surgery to pull the upper jaw forward and push the lower jaw backward
- Tooth extraction can be done to relieve the pressure of overcrowding teeth and help the jaw to adapt into a more natural position
In mild cases, a method of cosmetic dentistry is performed to reshape the lower teeth and then fit veneers to the upper teeth. This Facelift technology doesn’t physically fix the problem, but it makes it less visible and improves the jaw functions.
Maintaining oral hygiene
In the process of deciding what treatment of underbite correction is right for you, don’t forget to maintain your oral health. No treatment is successful without proper oral hygiene. Follow basic oral hygiene tips which are given following to achieve good oral health:
- Brushing daily twice a day
- Flossing at least once per day
- Rinse your mouth with antibacterial mouthwash
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks
- Quit using tobacco
Underbite can be a very annoying condition that can cause physical and mental stress to patients. Fortunately, underbite can be corrected despite your age or the severity of the condition.
Various treatment options are available for correction of your underbite condition. You can talk to your dentist about which treatment method will be best suited for you.
Maintaining proper oral hygiene along with your treatment for underbite is essential to get the best results and to achieve a beautiful smile.