A lot of people have underbites; they are fairly common. For those who don’t know, an underbite is a jaw misalignment that results in the bottom teeth jutting out further than the upper teeth. If you can’t visualise that, then think of a bulldog.
They can vary in severity from mild to severe, and the truth is that they are more than simply a cosmetic concern. An underbite can have a significant effect on your dental health as well as your health overall; let’s get into it.
Underbites & Overbites: What is the Difference?
As outlined above, an underbite is when the bottom teeth and often jaw too, protrude beyond the top set of teeth. It makes sense then that an overbite is the opposite. An overbite is when the top teeth extend out way past the bottom teeth. An overbite can be caused by pretty much all of the things that can cause an underbite, except they obviously work in reverse to cause the opposite effect.
An overbite doesn’t tend to require as much treatment as an underbite; it can often be fixed with braces alone, although on rare occasions when caused by a jaw deformity, it might require an operation to fix.
What Can Cause an Underbite?
There are several things that can have an effect on the alignment of the teeth. Normal alignment of the teeth results in a comfortable bite; the molars fit together with the front top teeth sitting slightly in front of the bottom front teeth. Proper alignment ensures that you can eat, talk and just generally move your mouth comfortably without accidentally biting your tongue, lips or cheeks.
Underbites can be caused by a few different things. Firstly, your childhood habits can have a long-lasting effect on your mouth and your teeth. Now, these habits are fairly common, but it is the length of time that you indulge in them that can really speak to your likelihood of developing an underbite. For example, prolific thumb sucking, using a dummy after the age of three and prolonged bottle feeding can all push the teeth and cause them to shift and misalign over the years.
Next up, for some people, an underbite is unavoidable because there can be a genetic component. In fact, inheriting an underbite from your ancestors is the leading cause of them. You are far more likely to have an underbite if you have a family history of them. This is because your genetics dictate the size of your jaw and the size and shape of your teeth. Crowding of the teeth is a common genetic trait, and it can result in a number of dental issues, including an underbite.
An injury or blunt force trauma to the face can have a significant effect on your mouth. First, it can cause damage to your jaw. This damage, while often repairable, can push your jaw out of alignment, and once that happens, your teeth can come in wonky. This can then result in an underbite. Finally, if you develop an underbite seemingly out of nowhere, it could be a sign that you have a tumour growing on your jawbone that is forcing your jaw to protrude and your teeth out of alignment, which can then cause an underbite.
The Benefits of Fixing an Underbite
The truth is that far more people have naturally misaligned teeth than those who have naturally ‘perfect’ smiles. That being said, most of the time, those suffering from a slight misalignment won’t require any special dental intervention. However, underbites do often require a correction because of the effects they can have on your health.
When an underbite is corrected, the teeth become far easier to clean, which in turn can decrease your risk of experiencing gum disease and tooth decay. There is also less strain on the jaw, facial muscles and teeth as a whole which can alleviate pain and tension in the face as well as decrease the odds of breaking one of your teeth. It can also make eating less painful and uncomfortable.
There are several ways that an underbite can be treated. The treatment suggested by your dentist will depend entirely on the severity of the underbite. It is also often informed by the age of the patient too. The first treatment option and the go-to for most cases is braces. A wire or plastic brace or aligner, in conjunction with some other tools like bands, can often be used to help to move the teeth into the correct alignment. In some instances, the dentist might have to remove a tooth or two to free up some space if overcrowding is contributing to the problem.
In cases where the underbite is more severe, your dentist might recommend a surgical procedure to correct the issue. Most certified oral surgeons are qualified to carry out one of several procedures used to correct the underbite. For example, your jaw might need lengthening, shortening or just a general reshaping. The oral surgeon might decide to use a number of tools in the surgery, including screws, wires and plates, to hold the jaw in place and maintain its new shape and position. Although an underbite operation – as with any form of surgery – does carry risks, there are the risks associated with being put under the anaesthesia, the chance of infection, scarring and blood loss.
The Cost of Correction
The costs associated with fixing an underbite can vary dramatically. It will also depend on how severe your underbite is and how old you are. Children in Britain are entitled to free dental care on the NHS, which means if you are under the age of eighteen, an NHS dentist could fix the problem for free. However, if you are over the age of eighteen, then the cost will increase.
There are three bands when it comes to dental treatments on the NHS, but the truth is that orthodontic procedures aren’t often offered to adults unless their oral health is being severely impacted. This is why more and more adults are choosing to have clear aligners from providers like Straight My Teeth. They also have a wealth of information on dental issues that could be affecting you; in fact, you can get more information on an underbite here as well as treatment options provided by Straight My Teeth.
Underbites in Children
Realistically, the earlier you can address and begin to correct an underbite, the better. If the case is less severe, then you should refrain from seeking treatment until their adult teeth have begun to erupt. Otherwise, you risk having to correct the problem again.
For children with a severe underbite, especially one that has been caused by a genetic element that means the jaw itself is misshapen, then an underbite surgery can take place at pretty much any age. Obviously, you will need to seek out medical advice from a doctor or dentist. They can then advise you on the best course of treatment and how long you will need to wait until you can have their underbite corrected.
Having an underbite is one of the dental conditions that can have a huge impact on your self-esteem and your self-image. However, more than that, it can also significantly affect your quality of life, leaving you in near-constant discomfort or pain that makes simply living your life difficult. Luckily, underbites are fixable. Consult a dentist for advice on the severity of your case and the best course of action.