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Overbite vs. Underbite: Differences and Risks

Overbite vs. Underbite: Differences and Risks


Overbite vs. Underbite: Differences and Risks

You might have heard the terms overbite and underbite before but don’t know exactly what they mean. They are both names for different types of misalignment of the teeth.

Usually your upper and lower jaws meet evenly, ensuring that eating and swallowing is comfortable. However, sometimes a malocclusion can occur. This is when the upper and lower teeth don’t meet properly.

What Is An Overbite?

An overbite is when your upper teeth extend to an excessive amount over your lower teeth., to an excessive amount. Overbites occur more often than underbites. A slight overbite is normal, however. Your dentist can measure your overbite, and if it extends more than 4 millimeters it may be classified as excessive. Overbites are also known as Class 2 malocclusion.

What Is An Underbite?

An underbite is when your lower teeth extend further than your upper teeth. Your lower jaw will protrude, and the teeth will not be able to align properly.  This can lead to serious oral health issues. Underbites are also known as a Class 3 malocclusion.

Abnormal bites are usually diagnosed in childhood, giving plenty of time to correct while the child is still growing. It can be harder to treat once growing has stopped.

Overbite vs. Underbite

Many people live with slight over and underbites without an issue, but a more severe protrusion can cause problems with eating and chewing, speech issues, face and mouth pain, headaches and earaches and sleeping issues such as apnoea. It can also be aesthetically displeasing and cause confidence issues that start in childhood.

Common causes for overbites and underbites include:

  • Genes — Malocclusions can be inherited. If you have at least one family member with an underbite or overbite, it increases the chances you will develop one.
  • Childhood habits — Thumb sucking, pacifiers after three years old and long-term bottle feeding can cause alignment issues.
  • Adult behaviors — These include habits such as nail biting and pushing your teeth with your tongue.
  • Injury — A broken jawbone, even if it can be repaired, can lead to an underbite.

Treatment for Overbites and Underbites

Orthodontics is the most common treatment for an overbite and underbite. Your orthodontist will decide if braces are needed. Sometimes, to enable the teeth to move into the correct place and allow the over and underbites to correct, teeth may need removing before braces are fitted. Braces apply constant and steady pressure for a prolonged period of time to correct the alignment. Braces are usually fixed appliances. For some malocclusions, other appliances and retainers may be used. Your orthodontist will advise the best course of action.

Malalignments are far easier to treat from an early age while the skeletal system is still growing. So, it is recommended that children start visiting the dentist from an early age when a diagnosis can be made, if needed.

Sometimes, a severe underbite will require surgery where the jaw will be realigned. Underbite correction can take some time to repair. Your orthodontist will advise you if you need referring to a maxillofacial specialist.

You can apply some proactive measures at home by discouraging thumb sucking, pacifiers and nail biting, if this is occurring. Your orthodontist may also recommend a night guard if you are grinding your teeth or have joint pain.

Dental Treatment at West Coast Dental

West Coast Dental can help with any treatment that might be needed. Schedule an appointment online today. We have several offices throughout Southern California making it easy to book an appointment at a location convenient to you. Whether you are looking for a dentist in Covina, Buena Park, Pico Rivera, Hemet, Long Beach, Los Angeles or Rialto, we are here to help.

Natalie Roberts is a freelance content writer in the healthcare space and book author. You can find out more about her work by visiting her website.


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