There are a few different bite issues that can develop as your child grows, and some are more important than others. Parent’s are more likely to notice teeth that are sticking out or are crooked but they may not be aware of underlying problems that may be worth treating sooner rather than waiting for all the adult teeth to come through. The three main bite issues we treat are overbite, underbite and deep bite.
Overbite, Deep bite or underbite?
Overbite is where your top teeth are more prominent than the bottom teeth. This can be due to a mismatch of jaw growth, thumb or finger sucking or pure genetics. In younger children, having teeth sticking out can be a problem, as children do tend to be a bit more accident prone. The biggest risk is knocking out these teeth if they trip and fall, or if they hit their mouths on the bottom of a pool. Thankfully by the time the teenage years come around that risk is much less.
Deep bites are quite common and often seen in patients who have an increased overbite. Deep bites can sometimes mean that the lower teeth are biting on the gums behind the upper front teeth and could lead to recession of the gums in that area.
So what is an underbite?
An ‘underbite’ is clinically referred to as a ‘prognathiasm’ and occurs when your lower teeth overlap your upper teeth – there are a number of reasons for this happening. Underbites also are caused by growth mismatch or genetics, but could also be due to missing top teeth.
Do we need to treat bite problems?
In some cases there is great benefit to improving someones bite, but most improvements are cosmetic rather than functional. Just because there is a mismatch in someone’s bite, it doesn’t mean it has to be corrected, after all some issues can not be completely corrected. When you are going to have your teeth straightened it is worth having the bite checked as improving it may make brace treatment work better or be more stable long term. In addition, what you may not like about the look of the teeth could be due to the way they bite as well as how crooked they are.
How can an overbite be treated?
In many cases, a jaw correcting brace (functional appliance) can be used to help them posture the lower teeth forwards. Over 6-9 months this posture change will become more established and help reduce the amount the top teeth stick out. This can start as early as 10-11 years old.
A short course of fixed braces may be needed afterwards to tidy the result up once all the adult teeth are through.
In less severe cases, it may be quicker to remove a few top teeth and use braces to bring the front teeth inwards, therefore reducing the prominence.
And what about underbites?
If there is too much growth affecting the lower jaws, it’s often better to wait until this has stopped before any treatment is carried out. In most cases this is into the later teens or early 20’s. Once growth has stopped most treatment is to camoulflage the reverse bite and may involve having teeth removed. If the jaw alignment is severe then surgery may be indicated.
If you think your child is developing and under or over bite an orthodontic assessment would be a good way to find out if anything needs to be done straight away. You can ask your dentist for a referral or telephone to arrange a consultation with our specialist orthodontist.