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Causes of Overbites and Underbites

Overbites and underbites can cause people to feel self conscious about their appearances, but that’s not the only effect an overbite or underbite can have on a patient. Overbites and underbites both can cause medical conditions such as migraines and temporomandibular disorders, as well as neck pain and mouth pain. If you or someone you love has an overbite or underbite, it’s important to know there are things that can be done about it.  Many people have overbites or underbites that are slight and unnoticeable. They don’t cause them any difficulty, so they live with them, never giving them another thought. However, others may decide to have this condition corrected, especially if they are experiencing pain from them. Top dentists want you to know that there are dental remedies to overbites and underbites, and the positive effects of having these dental conditions corrected are many. Following is more information on the causes, effects, and treatments of overbite and underbites.

Overbites and underbites

There are a number of reasons why the teeth do not grow in properly, sometimes causing an overbite or underbite. If an individual’s upper and lower jaws are not the proper size for the teeth that are growing in, or if the jaws are malformed, this can result in an overbite. An overbite is an excessive protrusion of the upper jaw, whereas an underbite occurs when the lower teeth protrude over the upper teeth. One of the most common causes of these dental conditions is heredity. If one or both parents have overbites or underbites, a child is much more likely to have one of these dental conditions also. Other common causes include pacifier use in infancy beyond age 3, thumb-sucking as a child, chewing habits, and tongue thrusting. It’s estimated that overbites and underbites occur in upwards of 10 percent of the U.S. population.

Effects of overbites and underbites

As mentioned above, some individuals who have overbites or underbites do nothing about their dental conditions, typically because they don’t change their appearance and they don’t cause them any difficulty in chewing or speaking. However, many individuals who have either of these dental conditions choose to correct them, sometimes because they are physically noticeable, and sometimes because they cause them other negative effects. These dental conditions can lead to a disorder known as TMD, temporomandibular disorder, also referred to medically as TMJ syndrome. TMD can cause sleeping problems, jaw pain, neck pain, and even migraines. Additionally, individuals with overbites can bite their lips by accident, which can then lead to infection. Overbites and underbites can also cause the teeth to wear unevenly, which can lead to additional dental complications.

Correction of overbites and underbites

Correcting overbites and underbites typically is done by a family dentist or cosmetic dentist, sometimes also referred to as an orthodontist. Braces are the most common means of treating overbites and underbites, as they help to ease the teeth into proper alignment. An orthodontist may take x-rays or photos of your mouth and teeth in order to examine the relationship of your teeth to your jaws and head. He likely will also need to make impressions of your mouth and teeth in order to determine the type of treatment that will best suit your situation. In order to make impressions of your mouth, he will have you bite down onto soft dental material that will be used to create a replica of your teeth. The teen years are most often the time in life when braces are used in order to correct dental conditions, especially if an overbite or underbite has occurred. However, many adults are wearing braces these days in order to have dental conditions corrected, especially since there are clear or less visible braces available now that make wearing braces less noticeable. Some of these newer braces can even be removed by patients or worn only while sleeping in order to lessen discomfort or awareness. If an overbite or underbite is particularly severe, surgery may be necessary in order to correct it.

Once an overbite or underbite has been corrected via braces or surgery, it is generally recommended by dentists that patients wear a retainer, typically at night, in order to prevent slippage of the teeth from their newly aligned positioning. Your dentist will suggest the length of time you should wear this retainer, often for several months to a year. If you have an overbite or underbite that you’d like to have corrected, contact a top dentist to schedule a consultation.

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