An underbite is a medical condition where the lower teeth protrude beyond the upper teeth. This misalignment of the jaw is also regarded as a Class III malocclusion, or reverse bite. We at Iqaluit Dental Clinic suggest you treat an underbite, even a mild one, as soon as possible, as it could lead to severe difficulties such as slurred speech, pain during biting, and chewing in the future.
Underbite cases are rare and only affect 5%-10% of the population, and even though they cause a lot of distress, there are several highly effective ways to treat an underbite. From surgeries to braces, there is a solution for everyone out there, which you will learn about shortly in this article.
Underbite can happen for several reasons, such as:
1. Injury – Severe facial injuries can damage the jaw in unforeseeable ways. Surgeries can fix most of the facial damage, but it can cause a misalignment in the teeth, which can eventually lead to an underbite.
2. Genetics – Genetics are responsible for shaping your jaws and teeth. Unfortunately, that applies to dental deformities as well. Although the chances are low, you are likely to inherit a misaligned jaw or overcrowded teeth from family members, which can evolve into a case of underbite in the future. Genetic deformities are unavoidable, but they can still be effectively treated if diagnosed early on.
3. Habits – Bottle feeding beyond infant years, thumb sucking, using a pacifier above age 3 or sometimes even something as common as pushing the teeth can cause underbite in children.
4. Tumours – Rarely a few cases of tumour-induced underbite surface in the medical community.
Underbite impacts both a person’s medical and social life. Depending on the severity, it can lead to several challenges, such as:
1. Eating difficulties – Severe cases of underbite can cause jaw pain, making it difficult for you to thoroughly chew your food. It can even cause problems when you are brushing your teeth, which in turn can lead to bad breath and dental decay.
2. Slurred speech – In an extreme case of underbite, you will have trouble speaking properly. Individuals who are unfamiliar with your speech won’t readily understand what you are trying to say.
3. Chronic Jaw/Joint pain (TMJ) – The pain emanating from the jaw or teeth can also induce earaches and headaches.
4. Tooth problems – The shape of the teeth causes them to grind against each other in an unnatural way. It causes the enamel to wear out, leading to cracked teeth, and even tooth decay.
5. Emotional stress – Some people aren’t sympathetic towards deformities and will often bully or make fun of you. Without proper support, it can even affect your self-esteem and confidence.
Treatment methods vary based on the age and severity of the malocclusion. Moderate cases don’t always require surgery, and mild cases can even be treated at home with proper care. Here are a few ways you can correct your underbite, listed from the least to the most complicated procedures:
1. Home remedy – Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly is important. In the case of an underbite, you should do it more carefully to prevent further damage to your teeth. See your dentist at least twice a year to ensure the underbite doesn’t worsen any further.
2. Cosmetic treatment – Only applicable for mild cases where the teeth aren’t too out of shape. The treatment entails reshaping the teeth and fitting them with dental veneers. The procedure improves jaw functionality and makes the underbite less visible.
3. Reverse-Pull Face Masks – The treatment only works in children below the age of 10, since they are still growing. The mask wraps around the head, and metal bands are attached to the upper back of the teeth. The contraption then pulls back the upper jaw into the appropriate position. The child is also given a chin cup to keep the mask firmly in the palace. The mask has to be worn at all times, even when they are sleeping.
4. Upper Jaw Expander – The device gradually widens the jaw so that the back side of the lower teeth no longer touches the outside of the upper teeth. It’s usually done with a key-operated wire-frame device and takes at least a year to realign the teeth. Once the adjustment is done, the doctors replace the device with a retainer to facilitate bone growth.
Children, teenagers, and even adults can benefit from this treatment, but they have to properly follow the instructions for the treatment to work.
5. Tooth Extraction – Sometimes there are too many teeth to realign using the above procedures. This is where surgeries are required, and tooth removal is the first one. Tooth removal is a simple procedure where a few teeth are pulled out to prevent an underbite. It is also suggested in conjunction with other treatments.
6. Orthognathic Jaw Surgery – The surgery involves the separation of the lower jaw and realigning it (moving back) so that the protruding teeth are positioned further inwards. You can resume school/work after 2-3 weeks, but it usually takes 9-12 months for the jaws to completely heal.
7. Le Fort III Osteotomy – This is a complicated procedure and is usually recommended when your face gets sucked in and above the lower jaw. The surgery will shift your entire face forward, thereby completely changing your appearance.
In addition to being expensive, jaw surgeries can cause problems if you’re not careful. Here are a few cases:
1. Discomfort, pain, and other side effects related to surgery.
2. Being unable to attend school/work because of rest or other complications such as infections.
Surgery is suggested based on the different classes of malocclusion. They are:
1. Class 1 Malocclusion – Regarded as an ideal bite and not as a malocclusion, but there is some pain in the jaws.
2. Class 2 Malocclusion – Regarded as an overbite where the lower jaw is behind the upper jaw.
3. Class 3 Malocclusion – Regarded as an underbite where the lower jaw is in front of the upper jaw.
At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we suggest you consult an orthodontist if you have trouble chewing, talking, or fitting into society because of your appearance. In the case of chronic pain, we suggest you seek help immediately. Even mild temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders can lead to problems, so the sooner you address them, the better your chances of a full recovery.