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How's Your Bite? Orthodontics Cure Over Bite

Overbite, underbite, crossbite. All of these terms refer to a malocclusion, which literally means “bad bite.” Such misalignments occur when teeth do not fit together correctly and may be the result of a small mouth, which causes teeth to crowd and shift; different sized upper and lower jaws; or irregularly spaced or crooked teeth.

Everyone’s mouth is a little different. In the ideal bite, as defined by the National Institutes for Health, the upper teeth fit slightly over the lower teeth and the points of the molars fit into the grooves of the opposite molars.

The NIH defines three malocclusion categories, as follows:

  • Class 1 malocclusion is the most common. The bite is normal, but the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth.
  • Class 2 malocclusion, called retrognathism or overbite, occurs when the upper jaw and teeth severely overlap the bottom jaw and teeth.
  • Class 3 malocclusion, called prognathism or underbite, occurs when the lower jaw protrudes or juts forward, causing the lower jaw and teeth to overlap the upper jaw and teeth.

Bite issues are most often hereditary. Non-genetic causes include premature loss of baby or adult teeth; thumb sucking; trauma such as a jaw injury; poorly fitting crowns, fillings or other dental work; or prolonged bottle or pacifier use.

Gnawing on your well being

An improper bite may seem relatively harmless, depending on its severity, but it may cause problems such as:

  • Difficulty cleaning teeth and gums properly, which can lead to decay and gum disease
  • Trouble eating
  • Insecurity over appearance
  • Worn enamel
  • Tooth grinding
  • Jaw pain
  • Interference with speech

How to get aligned

Even if teeth appear straight a misalignment may still exist. Your dentist may be able to treat mild malocclusions; however, he or she may refer you or your child to an orthodontist. Orthodontists are dentists with who specialize in the prevention and correction of oral misalignments. They treat bite issues with braces, appliances such as aligners and retainers, and corrective procedures such as extractions or surgery.

The American Association of Orthodontics recommends children have their first orthodontic checkup by age 7. Treatment typically begins between ages 9 and 14. However, you are never too old for orthodontic care. More and more adults are seeking treatment for bite issues. The AAO estimates that 1 in every 5 orthodontic patients is older than 18.

Check with your dental plan to see what orthodontic benefits it includes. For help choosing an orthodontist, ask friends, family or your dentist for a referral; or use the locators offered by the American Board of Orthodontics and the American Association of Orthodontics.

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