Countless people have some degree of overbite which negatively impacts their appearance and self-esteem. What exactly causes this common problem, and how can it be corrected? Here’s what you should know about the causes, complications and treatments for a malocclusion (improper alignment).
What Causes an Overbite?
A type of malocclusion, an overbite occurs when a person’s upper teeth protrude out farther than their lower teeth. In many instances, they may also have crooked teeth, but this isn’t always the case.
In the vast majority of cases, overbites are caused by genetic traits inherited from parents. That said, it can also occur due to behavioral habits during infancy, including thumb-sucking, overuse of pacifiers or sucking too often from a bottle. Older kids, teens and adults can develop overbites from grinding their teeth, chewing on pencils or biting their nails. A person may also develop a malocclusion when they lose a tooth and fail to seek proper treatment. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) has also been known to cause bite problems.
The most common overbite treatment is orthodontics. After examining your mouth, the orthodontist will usually take x-rays and impressions to better understand the alignment of the lower and upper jaws. Dental braces are then typically used to straighten teeth and align the jaw. Other appliances may also be used, depending on how much of an overbite there is.
You may need elastic bands or similar appliances to slowly force the jaw into proper alignment over a period of two or more years. During this time, you will need to schedule monthly adjustments to keep your treatment on the right track.
If you have a severe overbite where the lower and upper jaws are different sizes, your orthodontist may need to perform a tooth extraction to help the problem. In certain instances, removing a couple of bicuspids from the upper jaw can be a more affordable, convenient alternative to jaw surgery.
What if You Don’t Get Treatment
Most people seek treatment for overbites because they are worried about the appearance of their face and smile. That said, sometimes overbites can make it hard for people to brush and floss properly, leading to tooth decay, gum disease, costly dental treatments and potential tooth loss. Overbites can also cause jaw pain, headaches and toothaches in certain people.
By getting treatment you can significantly improve the appearance of your face and smile, while reducing your risk of potentially serious dental problems down the line.