How Effective Are Braces at Fixing an Overbite?
An overbite is a very common condition that’s found in well over half of patients treated by family orthodontics. Like misalignment of the teeth, an overbite can be corrected, especially when it’s identified early. Braces from a local orthodontist are one way to correct this misalignment, and other options are available as well.
What Are the Causes, Types, and Symptoms of an Overbite?
Overbites, or malocclusions, are the overlap of the upper teeth in relation to the lower teeth. They can be hereditary and can also be caused by malformation of the jaw due to prolonged pacifier use, bottle feeding, or thumb sucking during childhood. An overbite can also be caused in adults when chewing on things like cigars, fingernails, and ice is a habit. Grinding the teeth can also cause an overbite, as can temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).
Overbites can be horizontal or vertical. When top teeth significantly overlap the bottom teeth, this is called a horizontal overbite. When top teeth protrude over bottom teeth, this is a vertical overbite. An overbite is either caused by a dental condition such as crowding or due to a skeletal issue with the jaw.
This condition has several symptoms, some of which include:
- Short and round face shape
- Chin appears to be too small for the face
- Pain in the jaw
- Slurred speech
A patient with an overbite may also look angry, even though they are not.
In addition to the types of overbite, there are also 3 different classes of malocclusion or misalignment of the teeth.
Class 1: Neutrocclusion
Class 1 is the most common type of misalignment, in which the upper teeth overlap lower teeth, but where there is a normal bite. A patient typically has other problems occurring in addition to their neutrocclusion, such as gaps or overcrowding of the teeth.
Class 2: Distocclusion
In distocclusion, the upper jaw and teeth severely overlap the lower teeth and jaw. In this type of misalignment, the front teeth typically protrude (also known as having “buck teeth”). The back teeth may also be positioned over the center teeth in the lower jaw.
Class 3: Mesiocclusion
A mesiocclusion is where the lower front teeth are more prominent than the teeth in the upper front of the mouth. Mesiocclusion can also be the diagnosis when a patient’s lower jaw is larger than their upper jaw or where the upper jaw is shorter than the lower jaw.
What Is an Overjet?
“Overjet” is an industry term. Used by orthodontists to describe the distance that top teeth are sitting ahead of the lower teeth, a normal overjet is three millimeters. However, in a person with severe misalignment, the overjet may be as much as 10 millimeters. The term “reverse overjet” is used to describe negative distance, when the lower teeth are sitting ahead of the upper teeth.
Do You Really Need Treatment?
Crowded teeth are more difficult to clean, which can lead to more food being trapped between them. This increases the risk of cavities. Additionally, worn enamel and gum disease can occur when teeth rub against each other or against the gums. Misalignment can also cause sleep apnea, pain and discomfort while eating, and severe headaches.
Overbite Treatment Options
Children with overbites that are caught early are more easily treated, simply because their jaws have not yet developed. Overbite correction for children will typically involve the use of traditional metal braces. The fully developed jaws of adults can make overbites difficult to treat with traditional metal braces. Where this is the case, there are other options for correcting overbites.
The braces process involves fastening metal brackets to the teeth and then connecting these brackets with wire in order to straighten the teeth. Once straightening is complete, fixing of the overbite begins. Springs, coils, and rubber bands are added to the braces to help shift the jawline with additional force. Treatment of an overbite using braces can take anywhere from six months to two years.
Invisalign is a way to properly align teeth by wearing a series of transparent appliances that fit over the upper and/or lower teeth. Each appliance in the series is worn for two weeks, and each subsequent aligner applies increased force, which adjusts and straightens the teeth.
Surgery on the Jaw
Where there is a skeletal problem, some extreme cases of overbite may require surgery to reposition the jaw; braces will simply not be enough to correct it. Overbite correction surgery is typically an option for adults, as their jaws are no longer developing or as flexible as those of children.
Sometimes, a patient’s upper or lower jaw may simply not be large enough to hold all of their teeth. As a result, teeth can become overcrowded and severely misaligned. These cases can require the removal of some teeth, which creates more space for other teeth to move and align themselves properly. Braces are usually used following extraction to encourage teeth to shift into a normal position.
Nasal Breathing and Proper Tongue Position
Breathing should occur exclusively through the nose, but nasal issues can prevent normal nasal breathing and force a patient to breathe through their mouth. Also called “mouth-breathing,” this can cause the misalignment of the jaw. In some cases, it is necessary to correct the underlying cause of being unable to breathe through the nose.
An improper resting position of the tongue in the mouth is another cause of overcrowding of the teeth and even skull shaping. In proper resting position, the tip of the tongue should be positioned on the gum line between the two top front teeth. The rest of the tongue should be positioned against the roof of the mouth, with the back of the tongue along the ridges of the gums of the back teeth.
In minor cases of over- or underbite, certain exercises can resolve the problem. The jaw bone may only need to be stabilized in order to correct an overbite. Where this is the case, plates and wires may be used. Teeth can also be corrected by bonding, capping, or reshaping them.
The removal of baby teeth in children can allow for sufficient room for permanent teeth. Better jaw positioning can be obtained when a growth modification device is used during growth spurts. Once a child’s braces have been removed, retainers can be used to ensure that teeth remain in their new positions.
Prognosis for Treatment and Preventing Misalignment
Adults with misalignment issues can be treated as effectively as children and teens, although treatment may take longer for adult patients. For children, prevention of bad habits like thumb-sucking and pencil-chewing can be done by discouraging these behaviors. Adults may need to relearn proper tongue position and nasal breathing.
The best news is that a person is never too young or too old to correct their misalignment. The way to do this is to see an orthodontist as early and as often as possible. We recommend that children be in for a checkup by the age of seven so that any overbite issues can be detected early on.
Adults are encouraged to visit an orthodontist for a regular checkup every six months to every year. This will ensure proper treatment of the overbite and prevent serious physical issues resulting from not getting treatment.
At Labbe Family Orthodontics, we strive to help you understand your many options for overbite correction and proper alignment. Whether you visit our Greenbelt, Crofton/Gambrills, Bowie, or Annapolis locations, you are treated like family. New patients receive a complimentary orthodontic consultation in which specific information and a detailed individual care plan are developed. Life is better with a smile; call our team at 443-603-3448 to get started today.
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