When the dentist tells you that you have an underbite, it means your lower teeth extend out further than your upper front teeth. This condition can also be referred to as prognathism or malocclusion. In some people, it will create an appearance much like a bull-dog when the condition is severe, and in others, it may not even be noticeable.
In dentistry, an underbite can be more than just a cosmetic concern. Some have learned to live with the mild cases, but if you have a severe underbite, it can make chewing difficult, affect how you speak, and cause pain in your face and mouth because of your jaw being misaligned.
What Causes an Underbite?
Several factors can affect how your teeth are aligned. Teeth are supposed to grow so that your upper teeth slightly fit over the lower teeth. The molars in the back of your mouth, which are wide and flat, should fit into each other. When your teeth are correctly aligned, it prevents you from biting your tongue, lips, or cheeks when you chew food.
Some of the factors that can cause a person to develop an underbite include:
- Childhood Habits – Some childhood habits such as using a pacifier after the age of 3, long-term feeding from a bottle beyond your infant years, or thumb sucking can impact how your teeth develop. While not all thumb-sucking habits result in damaging the development of teeth, active thumb sucking with a lot of motion can damage baby teeth. If the thumb sucking is vigorous and persistent, it can cause damage or misalignment of your permanent teeth and possibly cause you to have an underbite.
- Genetics – Genetics can also play a role in whether or not you will develop an underbite. If one person in your family has this condition, your chances of an underbite are increased. Genetics has a significant role in how a person’s teeth shape and the size of their jaw.
- Injury– If you suffer a severe injury to your face, it can affect the shape of your jawbone. If a jawbone is broken, it is possible to repair it; however, it may not fit together correctly after the surgery.
How to Treat an Underbite Condition
Treating an underbite condition has many benefits. It will be much easier to clean your teeth, reduces the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. You will also notice there is a lot less strain on your teeth, facial muscles, and jaw. Having your underbite condition repaired will also reduce your risk of breaking a tooth and the risk of developing temporomandibular disorders.
Temporomandibular Disorder – Your temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to your skull. This joint is located on both sides of your head and in the right of your ears. The temporomandibular joint is what allows your jaw to open and close and enables you to eat and speak. If you develop a disorder with this joint is can cause pain in your neck and face. A temporomandibular disorder, or TMJ, can also create stiffness in your jaw muscles, limit your jaw movements, lock your jaw, or create a clicking sound from the joint.
Treatment for an underbite condition include:
- Dental professionals often use braces or Invisalign to correct underbites in children. This option is now more appealing to young children and teens because they can come in either metal form or less-noticeable clear braces. Costs run between $2,000-$7,000.
- For those with mild underbites, there are mildly invasive cosmetic procedures available. Veneers adhered to reshaped teeth can allow for teeth to close the gap caused by an underbite. Costs run $75-$300 per tooth.
- Upper jaw expanders or reverse-pull face masks are face/headgear options that may be used to correctly widen, or pull the jaw into the correct position. Upper jaw expanders are typically used over the duration of a year. Costs similar to braces.
- Extreme cases of jaw misalignment may require surgical treatment. Adults often benefit from dental surgery. This method positions the jaw portion with the lowers further back. Costs $20,000-$40,000 without insurance, or under $5,000 with.
Check with your dentist for proper directions on how to care for teeth if you suffer an underbite. They will advise the proper techniques needed to prevent decay and further damage to your teeth.
Finding Treatment for an Underbite
If you or someone you know is suffering from an underbite, contact Oso Marguerite Dental at (949) 682-3535. We have over forty years of experience in providing customized dental care and will help you improve your smile and maintain your oral health.