What Can a Downey Orthodontist Do About an Adult Underbite?
When a Downey orthodontist recommends braces, it isn’t just to straighten crooked teeth.
One of the main reasons a dentist recommends ortho treatment is because their patient has a bite issue. This means that there’s a problem with their jaws, how they align, and how they align with the teeth.
An underbite is one example of a bite problem. Today, we’ll look at what causes an underbite and how orthodontic treatment can be used to remedy an adult underbite.
What Is an Underbite?
With an ideal bite, your upper front teeth fall slightly in front of your lower front teeth. If they’re too far in front of the lower front teeth, you have an overbite. Conversely, if the lower jaw juts forward and the lower front teeth are in front of the upper front teeth when you close your mouth, you have an underbite.
This bite issue is also referred to as Class III malocclusion.
When diagnosed with an underbite, your orthodontist will grade the severity of it, which is dependent upon the degree of overlap you have.
What Causes an Underbite?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to an adult underbite.
- Genetics: Some patients are predisposed to an underbite. A genetic phenotype seems to cause the problem, particularly amongst those with European heritage. Several famous, even noble, families had an underbite. One family had a condition named after them (Habsburg jaw). Besides the genetic phenotype, other conditions can lead to malocclusion including Nevoid basal cell carcinoma, severe Binder syndrome, and Treacher Collins syndrome.
- Childhood habits: Thumb sucking and tongue thrusting are normal childhood habits. Unfortunately, they’re bad habits that, left unbroken, can lead to a variety of bite abnormalities, including an underbite or an open bite. Other contributing factors include bottle feeding and using a pacifier after age three.
- Injury: If a patient has sustained a broken jaw and it doesn’t heal correctly, they can develop an underbite. In some cases, even surgery might not be able to repair the damage that has been done.
- Tumors: Tumors on the jaw, face, or neck – whether cancerous or benign – can cause the lower jaw to protrude into an underbite.
- Cleft lip/palate: Patients with a cleft lip or palate can develop bite abnormalities, including an underbite. Even after the cleft is successfully treated, the patient may still need orthodontic treatment to correct their malocclusion.
Is Fixing an Adult Underbite Simply “Cosmetic”?
A lot of people assume that adult orthodontic treatment is simply for cosmetic purposes. The person finally has the money to pay for treatment they couldn’t get as a child. Or they’re tired of living with the insecurity that can come from having a crooked smile.
While that might be so for some patients, it’s not so for all of them.
In fact, one of the main reasons a Downey orthodontist recommends adult braces is to preserve the patient’s dentition.
Repairing malocclusion can:
- Take pressure off the teeth, thereby reducing the risk or instance of cracks, chips, and fractures
- Prevent, reduce the effects of, or eliminate the painful symptoms of TMJ disorder
- Reduce the risk of, reverse, or arrest gum disease
What Can Be Done to Correct an Adult Underbite?
Orthodontic treatment can correct mild to moderate cases of adult underbite. Treatment may include:
- Braces (traditional or Invisalign)
Most often, traditional metal braces are preferred over Invisalign to treat an underbite in both children and adult patients. However, your Downey orthodontist knows your specific case and your unique needs, on which they’ll base their recommendations.
Headgear can be used instead of or before braces. Metal bands are attached to the posterior teeth of your upper jaw. A reverse-pull mask attaches to the metal bands and wraps around your head, pulling the lower jaw back.
A narrow upper jaw can contribute to an underbite. If this is the case, an orthodontist can recommend a palate expander to widen the upper jaw and correct the bite.
Another option is surgery.
Patients with a severe underbite are typically the best candidates for jaw surgery. Orthodontic treatment such as braces might not be enough to correct the bite in these situations. Instead, the patient will have braces in conjunction with surgical treatment.
The jaw surgery will realign the upper and lower jaws so that the patient can attain ideal function. Recovery from surgery typically takes 10-12 weeks.
What Are the Complications of Not Investing in Corrective Treatment?
Failure to treat an adult underbite looks different for each patient.
Some patients go through life without many issues, except maybe the occasional chipped tooth.
Unfortunately, many other patients aren’t so lucky. They can experience an abundance of dental problems because of their malocclusion. Here are some examples.
- Broken teeth: When your teeth are out of alignment, bite pressure is not balanced. Therefore, when you bite down, some teeth take more pressure than others. The result of this is cracked teeth that can become painful and require dental crowns. The cracks will progress over time, weakening the tooth and eventually leading to cusp fractures.
- Root canals: Constant excess pressure on the tooth can, in essence, bruise the tooth. Eventually, the nerve can become inflamed and irritated. Additionally, a crack can get so deep that it leads straight to the nerve. Bacteria travel down the crack and into the nerve, causing an infection. In both instances, a root canal is necessary.
- Extractions: Depending on the severity of the crack, the infection, or the fracture, the only option may be to extract the tooth/teeth.
- TMJ disorder: The pressure of malocclusion will also impact the jaw joints and muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments of the head and neck. Constant pressure results in inflammation, muscle tension and spasms, and damage to the disc and joint. The result is chronic pain in the form of facial pain, headaches, and migraines.
Your Downey Orthodontist Can Help Correct Your Bite Issues
Whatever type of bite issue you have – your orthodontic team can help.
We have a variety of tools at our disposal to repair your bite issues – from Invisalign® clear aligners and traditional braces to headgear and palate expanders.
A misaligned bite can lead to a plethora of painful problems. Crooked, crowded teeth can also leave people of all ages feeling insecure about their smile.
We want all our patients to have healthy, beautiful teeth. We want you to smile with confidence. If you’re ready to do something about your bite issues, please give us a call!
Do you have crowded, crooked teeth? Do you suffer from jaw pain and headaches? You might have a bite issue. Contact our team to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.