It’s Possible to Use Braces to Fix Underbite and Have Healthy Teeth
A lot of people have some form of malocclusion. It occurs when your teeth just don’t line up quite right. Underbites are not nearly as common as overbites are, but they can be corrected by braces to fix underbite or by braces in combination with another orthodontic appliance. About 5-10% of people have an underbite. Underbites can make people feel self-conscious but perhaps more importantly, as you get older, you may have situations where the teeth wear down incorrectly because the teeth don’t line up right. An underbite may also interfere with your ability to chew and speak.
If you think you or your child has an underbite, you should consult an orthodontist. You can actually see an orthodontist once your child turns 7, and that gives you a chance to correct issues early on. Underbites, unlike overbites, need to be corrected as soon as possible, since they are the complete reverse of how the jaws should line up.
Causes of underbites
An underbite occurs when your lower jaw and bottom teeth are in front of your upper teeth. Sometimes an underbite is caused by the upper teeth being at the wrong angle, so by fixing them the underbite gets corrected. Other causes of underbite are hereditary issues, gland disorders, thumb sucking or pacifier use, or bottle feeding use once the teeth have developed (usually past three years old).
Issues caused by underbites
A misaligned jaw can be a major cause of TMJ pain. Joint TMJ is also called a temporomandibular joint disorder. It occurs where the jaw connects to the skull. If that tendon is strained, it can make your jaw ache and give you headaches, but it can also cause sharp pains in that area that make it hard to bear. The muscles in the area get tired and achy, too. Underbites can lead to having speech impediments, mouth breathing, bacterial infections, wearing away the tooth enamel improperly, bad breath, dry mouth, biting the tongue more frequently, and digestion issues.
The last one might surprise you, but if you can’t chew your food properly, your digestive system has to do a lot more work.
If your teeth lose enamel too soon, your teeth can become weak and even break apart due to tooth decay.
And, because humans are the way they are, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and your appearance is a large part of that. Fixing an underbite can do wonders for one’s self-confidence level. Plus, underbites can cause facial muscle strain which can actually make you look older than you are.
Can braces fix an underbite?
Someone who is a great candidate for braces to fix underbite is someone who only has dental issues that are causing the underbite, like someone who sucked their thumb as a child. Contrast that to someone who has a genetic inherited jaw issue. This is someone who may need to have surgery as their way how to fix an underbite without braces.
When you go to the orthodontist, you will be given a thorough exam including x-rays to determine the cause of your underbite, and to see if you need to be referred to a surgeon or if your underbite can be fixed by braces. Your orthodontist may also do a digital scan of your mouth and take some measurements so he or she can get a full picture of what needs to be done and even show you what could be a potential outcome with orthodontic treatment.
If you are a good candidate for braces, you could be prescribed metal braces or ceramic braces that can be connected to appliances or used in conjunction with rubber bands that will realign the jaws.
This may also mean that if it is only teeth that need to be adjusted, lingual braces (ones worn behind the teeth) or clear aligners might be other solutions. Clear aligners will not be able to adjust jaw alignment or jaw size, but they can work on straightening the teeth. This can be one way how to fix underbite without braces or surgery.
How braces fix an underbite
Braces to fix underbite, whether metal or clear, work by putting gentle pressure on the teeth and realigning them in stages. It is a lot easier to fix underbites in kids and many times braces are often all that is necessary. They can work to correct the bite issues and allow the adult teeth to grow in naturally and in the right places. One thought some orthodontists have is to wear braces twice, something called two-phase treatment. As a child, braces to fix underbite can help correct bite issues and bring the jaws into proper alignment. Then later as teens, braces can finish aligning the teeth and ensure that everything will be set properly. Early orthodontia for kids produces better outcomes overall because the jaw is still forming while children are young.
While you have your braces on, be sure to brush your teeth twice daily and floss or use water irrigation tools to keep your braces and teeth clean. Good dental care is an important part of oral health. How long to fix underbite with braces will depend on your particular case, but by taking care of your teeth while you have your braces, you can be sure they will look great when the braces come off.
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Other ways to treat an underbite
There are surgeries that are sometimes done for extreme cases, though in most situations, a non-surgical option is often available. Some surgeries can only be done on children because their bones are still growing so the jaw can be reshaped more easily.
If the bite issue is just dental, all that will be needed is a set of braces to fix underbite. But, if there a bone issue, surgery might be the only way to resolve the issue. Another type of surgery is called orthognathic jaw surgery or maxillo-mandibular surgery. A maxillofacial surgeon actually goes in and splits the lower jaw bone so the rear part is separated, and then the front part of the jaw that has the teeth in it can be physically moved back. Surgery is sometimes the only option for adults or senior citizens because the jaw bone is now set at its permanent shape and size.
If both the upper and the lower jaw have issues, it might be necessary to not just work on the jawbones but also on the sinuses, nose, and chin to make everything line up correctly and leave you with a proper profile. This sometimes happens with cleft palates or cleft lips.
There are some other factors to consider if your orthodontist recommends surgery. There is always a risk with surgery, and some risks include nerve damage or chronic jaw pain. Also, not all insurance plans cover this kind of surgery, so it may be an expensive out-of-pocket procedure. Plus there are the other people involved like the anesthesiologist and the speech rehabilitation specialist, who are also not likely to be covered by insurance. And then there is the time loss from work or school to consider in planning also.
While the jaw is healing, the jaws are often wired shut and you will only be able to have a liquid diet. The total healing process takes about a year, but this is shorter than a typical orthodontic method to fix an underbite, which will usually take two years or so, a typical time how long braces take to fix an underbite.
Another type of treatment options is tooth extraction. For people who have something called an underdeveloped upper arch, teeth may need to be pulled and then an appliance worn to help align the palate. When teeth on the lower jaw are crowded, some of the teeth need to be pulled to help make more room for the remaining ones and then the lower teeth can be moved back to a better alignment. This is called orthodontic camouflage. Camouflage here does not mean making teeth blend into the background but rather using braces to fix underbite to move the teeth into position to take care of a jaw or bone issue.
If you wonder, “can you fix an underbite without braces?” and you don’t want to go the surgical route, sometimes teeth can be reshaped and then veneers put on so the lower teeth now fit correctly behind the upper ones. This is sometimes referred to as “facelift dentistry” or “teeth slenderizing”. This does not actually fix an underbite in the true sense by working on the jaw but it does make the teeth line up correctly for a healthier bite and it is one of the lesser invasive methods of doing so. One thing to keep in mind about reshaping teeth is that they are ground down for the veneers to go on, so that is a permanent change to the shape of the teeth.
You may have to wear something called a reverse pull face mask or headgear that helps pull the upper jaw forward. You will need to wear this for 10-14 hours a day. A lot of times you can get most of this time in while you sleep. It looks much like headgear and attaches to the back teeth using metal bands. It may be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes how to fix underbite with braces.
Another appliance used to correct an overbite is called a rapid palatal expander or upper jaw expander. This attaches to the upper molars and helps widen the upper jaw so that the teeth will line up properly. This is done for patients when the upper jaw is just too narrow to line up properly, or if the upper jaw is too small for all of the teeth to fit correctly and they are crowded. There may be a tiny key that is turned daily to help increase the upper jaw expander width so bit by bit the teeth are moved.
Sometimes these appliances are used in combination, so a jaw expander and a reverse pull headgear might be used together to get everything done. This is another way how to fix an underbite without braces.
A chin strap or chin cap might also be used to help realign the jaw while braces are used to line up the teeth. It is worn on the outside of the jaw and around the back of the head and is often used in children. It literally stops the jaw from growing too large. Your lower jaw is one of the last bones in the body to reach full size, and it does this around age 18 for girls and 22 for boys. Generally speaking it is worn at night and is part of the way how to fix an underbite with braces.
Summing it all up
Your dentist and orthodontist will be able to come up with a treatment plan for your underbite. It may involve braces, other appliances, or surgery. Ask your orthodontist if you really have to have surgery, and if you don’t like what you hear, it is ok to ask for a second opinion. New techniques are being developed all the time, and an orthodontist who is more cutting edge and modern may know of something that other orthodontists don’t. You shouldn’t be afraid to say that you don’t want to have surgery. It is an expensive process, and it can have a number of issues like time to heal and time lost from work. There are several ways you can use braces to fix underbite. But, you may have to accept that your underbite is significant, and that the only way there is does involve surgery. If you have wondered, “do braces fix underbite?” they can, so ask your orthodontist today what treatment method is best for you.