Orthodontists treat a number of different types of bite problems, which are examples of “malocclusion,” or misalignment of the teeth. When left unaddressed, these issues can cause a variety of complications, including aesthetic concerns, discomfort or pain, trouble pronouncing words properly, difficulty chewing, inability to brush the teeth properly, and other oral health concerns.
There are eight main types of bite problems that orthodontists treat. Below is some introductory information about each one. If your child (or you) have one of these bite conditions, it’s advisable to consult an orthodontist.
Types of Bite Problems that Benefit from Orthodontic Care
- Overbite – This is when the upper jaw protrudes over the lower jaw. It’s normal for people to have this to a very small extent (up to a couple of millimeters), but when it’s more pronounced, it’s a concern. People with a significant overbite often grind their teeth and/or clench their jaws a lot. These actions and the condition can cause headaches, temporomandibular joint pain, excessive tooth wear, damage to the enamel, difficulty properly brushing, difficulty chewing, and even speech impediments. Overbites are likely to worsen over time, too, which is why early intervention with braces or, in some cases, clear aligners is strongly recommended.
- Underbite – As you may have guessed, an underbite is when the lower jaw protrudes over the upper jaw, causing the lower teeth to cover the upper ones. This type of misalignment, like others, can be an aesthetic concern; it often causes a bulldog-like appearance, but it can also cause many of the same problems mentioned above with an overbite. Early intervention is key here too, typically accomplished with braces or possibly clear aligners.
- Crossbite – Crossbites can affect a single tooth or multiple teeth, and baby or adult teeth. There are two types: an anterior crossbite is when the lower teeth fit behind the upper teeth, and a posterior crossbite is the opposite. Crossbites can be serious, potentially causing some of the aforementioned complications, as well as lopsided jaw development and/or facial structure and gum damage if any teeth poke into the gums. Braces can correct this, as can clear aligners in some patients.
- Crowding – This is the fairly self-explanatory term for when there’s not enough space for all the teeth to grow in properly, causing them to be too crowded together. It may result from teeth that are too big, a small mouth, or other causes. This can lead to misalignment issues, rotated teeth, teeth growing outside their row, and other problems. Depending on the cause and the severity, crowding may be treated with braces, clear aligners, tooth extraction, a palate expander, or surgically.
- Gaps – Gaps between the teeth are a common aesthetic concern. They are easily addressed with braces, clear aligners, or dental implants. It’s a good idea to do so, not only for improved confidence, but also because gaps can lead to weakened gums and increased risk of gum disease.
- Deep bite – This is one of the more serious types of bite problems. A deep bite is an extreme overbite where the upper front teeth almost entirely cover the lower front teeth, to the point where the teeth scrape each other and the gums of the other jaw. This obviously leads to tooth damage, as well as wear and injury of the gums, making them more susceptible to infection and gum disease and potentially weakening their hold on the teeth. Braces, a palate expander, and/or other interventions may be used to remedy a deep bite.
- Open bite – An open bite is when the upper and lower front teeth don’t come together when the mouth is closed. If significant enough, it can distort a patient’s smile or interfere with proper speech, possibly causing a lisp. If the problem involves some baby teeth, it may resolve when all the adult teeth have come in. Otherwise, braces or clear aligners can sometimes fix the issue. However, in more severe cases, special headgear or surgery may be needed to address structural problems with the jaws.
- Protrusion – This refers to when the front upper and/or lower teeth jut out at an abnormal angle. It can be caused by the way the jaws are situated, and sometimes the teeth just grow out at an odd angle. Along with being a significant aesthetic concern, protrusion can be very uncomfortable, make it difficult to close the mouth or eat, cause mouth breathing and excessive dryness in the mouth, increase the risk of broken teeth, and more. Protrusion can usually be treated with braces or clear aligners.