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What is the Cause of an Underbite?

March 7, 2024

An underbite, also known as prognathism, is a dental condition where the lower teeth protrude beyond the upper teeth when the mouth is closed. Symptoms of an underbite may include difficulty biting or chewing, speech difficulties, and jaw pain. Left untreated, an underbite can lead to various health problems and impact facial aesthetics. Treatment options for underbites typically involve orthodontic intervention, such as braces or clear aligners, and, in some cases, surgical correction. It is essential to address underbite issues promptly to prevent further complications and improve oral health and overall well-being.

What is an Underbite?

An underbite occurs when the lower jaw grows larger or more forward than the upper jaw, causing the lower teeth to overlap the upper teeth when the mouth is closed. This misalignment can vary in severity, ranging from mild to severe cases. In some instances, the lower teeth may only slightly protrude beyond the upper teeth, while in more severe cases, the lower teeth may significantly jut out.

What are the symptoms of an underbite?

Symptoms of an underbite may include difficulty biting or chewing food, speech difficulties, jaw pain, headaches, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Additionally, individuals with an underbite may experience self-esteem issues due to the appearance of their smile.

Difficulty Biting and Chewing:

One of the primary symptoms of an underbite is difficulty biting and chewing food properly. The misalignment of the teeth can make it challenging to effectively break down food, leading to discomfort and frustration during meals.

Speech Difficulties:

An underbite can also affect speech patterns, causing difficulties in pronunciation and articulation. The misalignment of the teeth and jaws can interfere with the proper formation of sounds, resulting in slurred speech or lisping.

Jaw Pain:

Individuals with an underbite may experience jaw pain or discomfort, particularly when biting, chewing, or speaking for extended periods. The misalignment places additional stress on the jaw joints and muscles, leading to soreness and tension.

Headaches:

Chronic headaches are another potential symptom of an underbite. The strain placed on the jaw joints and muscles due to misalignment can radiate pain to other areas of the head, leading to frequent headaches or migraines.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders:

An underbite can contribute to the development of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which affect the joints connecting the jaw to the skull. Symptoms may include jaw clicking or popping, limited jaw movement, and pain or discomfort in the jaw joint.

Dental Problems:

Misaligned teeth resulting from an underbite can increase the risk of dental problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, and uneven wear on the teeth. Difficulty properly cleaning misaligned teeth can lead to plaque buildup and oral health issues over time.

Breathing Problems (in severe cases):

In severe cases where the lower jaw significantly protrudes beyond the upper jaw, an underbite can affect breathing patterns. The misalignment of the jaws may narrow the airway, leading to breathing difficulties, especially during sleep.

Aesthetic Concerns:

Aside from functional problems, aesthetic concerns are common among individuals with an underbite. The imbalance in facial proportions caused by a prominent underbite can affect overall facial appearance, leading to dissatisfaction with one's smile and facial profile.

Can Wisdom Teeth Cause an Underbite?

While wisdom teeth themselves may not directly cause an underbite, their eruption can sometimes exacerbate an existing underbite or contribute to dental crowding, which may further complicate the alignment of the teeth and jaws. In cases where wisdom teeth cause overcrowding, orthodontic treatment may be necessary to address the underlying issues.

How can an Underbite Affect Your Health?

An underbite can impact various aspects of an individual's health. Beyond the physical discomfort associated with misaligned jaws and teeth, such as difficulty chewing and speaking, it can also lead to dental problems like tooth decay, gum disease, and uneven wear on the teeth. Additionally, severe underbites can affect facial aesthetics, leading to self-consciousness and decreased confidence.

How Do You Correct Underbite Issues?

Correcting underbite issues typically involves a combination of orthodontic treatment and, in some cases, surgical intervention. Here's a breakdown of the various approaches to correcting an underbite: 

1. Orthodontic Treatment:

Orthodontic treatment is often the first line of intervention for correcting underbite issues, especially in mild to moderate cases. Orthodontic options may include:

Braces:

Traditional metal braces are commonly used to gradually shift misaligned teeth into proper alignment. Brackets are attached to the teeth, connected by wires, which are periodically adjusted to apply gentle pressure to move the teeth.

Clear Aligners:

Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, are a popular alternative to traditional braces. These transparent, removable aligners are custom-made to fit snugly over the teeth and gradually move them into the desired position. Clear aligners offer a more discreet and convenient option for correcting underbites.

Functional Appliances:

Functional appliances, such as Herbst appliances or Forsus springs, may be used to modify the growth of the jaws and correct underbite issues in growing children and adolescents. These appliances work by applying gentle pressure to the jaws to encourage proper alignment.

2. Surgical Intervention

In cases where orthodontic treatment alone is insufficient to correct severe underbite issues, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgical procedures may include:

Orthognathic Surgery:

Orthognathic surgery, also known as corrective jaw surgery, involves repositioning the upper jaw (maxilla), lower jaw (mandible), or both to correct skeletal abnormalities and achieve proper bite alignment. Orthognathic surgery is typically performed in conjunction with orthodontic treatment to optimize results.

3. Retention

After the completion of orthodontic treatment or orthognathic surgery, retention is essential to maintain the corrected bite and prevent relapse. Retention may involve wearing retainers, either removable or fixed, to keep the teeth in their new positions and ensure long-term stability.

4. Comprehensive Treatment Planning

Successful correction of underbite issues requires a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to the individual needs and goals of each patient. This often involves collaboration between orthodontists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, and other dental specialists to achieve optimal results.

5. Post-Treatment Monitoring

Following corrective treatment for an underbite, regular follow-up appointments with the dental care team are essential to monitor progress, address any concerns or complications, and ensure the long-term stability of the bite. Adjustments to retainers or other appliances may be made as needed to maintain optimal results.

What Age Should You Check and Fix an Underbite?

The ideal age to address an underbite depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition and the individual's growth and development. In many cases, orthodontic treatment for underbites begins during childhood or adolescence, when the jaws are still developing and more easily manipulated. However, underbites can also be corrected in adulthood through orthodontic treatment and, if necessary, surgical intervention.

Conclusion

Orthodontic treatment, such as braces or clear aligners, along with surgical intervention when necessary, can correct misalignment of the teeth and jaws, restoring proper bite alignment and facial harmony. It's essential to seek professional dental care to determine the most appropriate treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and goals.

At Peak Dental Group, we understand the importance of addressing underbite issues promptly and comprehensively. Our team of experienced dental professionals is dedicated to providing personalized care and innovative treatment solutions to help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile.

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