What is an Overbite, Underbite, Crossbite and how are they corrected?

 Amazing Smiles  Estimate Reading Time: 6 minutes

What is a malocclusion?

Malocclusion occurs when your jaw and teeth are misaligned.

Diagnoses and treatment during childhood or teenage years is easier to perform since bone growth is still developing during those years.

There are different types of malocclusion that can be distinguished as:

  • Overbites
  • Crossbites
  • Underbites
  • Open bites

The causes of such issues vary. Such factors include:

  • Hereditary / Genetic condition
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Abnormal growth of adult teeth or jawbone
  • Thumb sucking or excessive pacifier use
  • Tongue Posture
  • Injury
  • Incorrect use of oral appliance
  • Mouth Tumor
  • Mouth breathing conditions such as chronic nasal obstruction or enlarged tonsils

If left untreated, severe malocclusion can lead to oral health complications and challenges. These include:

  • Functional issues for chewing foods
  • Tooth Decay and tooth damage due to bite issues
  • Speech impediments
  • Jaw Muscle Stress – Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ)
  • Appearance issues
  • Breathing issues
  • Gum Disease

Below we help to distinguish the differences between the bite disorders.

What is an Overbite?

Overbite malocclusion
Overbite Malocclusion

An overbite is identified when your top front teeth extend further and overlap the bottom front teeth. Slight overbites are quite common. The average small overbite is 2-4mm. An overlap of anything more than this is considered to be an excessive overbite. Resulting in fewer lower teeth showing, which can damage the lower teeth. This can also affect the gum area on the back of your upper central incisors.

There are two different types of overbite; a skeletal overbite and a dental overbite.

  1. Skeletal Overbites occur from improper jawbone development, causing the teeth and jaw to grow incorrectly. This is often identified with the lower jaw being too small for the upper jaw. Due to the incorrect jaw development the upper rows of teeth push forward over the smaller bottom jaw.
  2. Dental Overbites occurs when teeth incorrectly align and teeth are in the wrong position.

Overbites are the most common dental disorder in children.

What is an Open bite?

Openbite dental occlusion
Openbite dental occlusion

Open bite’s is considered a rare form of malocclusion (misalignment ). An open bite is defined as a condition when the upper and lower front teeth slant outwards and do not touch when the mouth is closed. This can be caused by shape of the jawbone or external habits such as finger sucking during early childhood.

Open bite’s can occur in the front of the mouth, known as ‘anterior‘, or the back of the mouth, which is referred to as ‘posterior‘. Frontal open bites are more common between the two.

Treatment is highly recommended to patients with an open bite. Individuals with open bite disorder may have difficulties chewing and biting down on food. Articulate speaking may also be effected.

  1. Anterior Open Bite – most commonly occurs when the front teeth (incisors) of the upper and lower jaw do not overlap.
  2. Posterior Open Bite – this is identified in cases where the back teeth, including the molars and premolars do not close when biting down. A normal bite is when the back teeth of the upper jaw are slightly outside the bottom teeth of the lower jaw when biting down.

What is an Underbite?

Underbite misalignment of the jaw
Underbite misalignment of the jaw

An underbite is where your lower teeth extend in front of the upper teeth. In extreme cases, this is visually noticeable when the bottom jaw protrudes further than the upper jaw.

Clinically called a prognathism, this form of misalignment can often cause damage to the upper front teeth. Unfortunately this condition, which is considered as a Class III malocclusion, can cause discomfort, mouth and face pain.

What is a Crossbite?

Anterior crossbite malocclusion
Anterior crossbite malocclusion

A crossbite is a malocclusion condition that refers to teeth alignment. This is identified when one, several or all teeth do not close correctly. Crossbites can be caused by overcrowding, upper and lower jaw position, or a combination of both. Crossbites can occur in the front teeth known as anterior crossbite, or the back teeth, which is called posterior crossbite.

Due to misalignment, tooth chipping and damage or gum problems are more prominent in patients with a severe crossbite.

Overbite, Crossbite, Underbite Treatment

There are several options available to patients. These vary as each individual case is differs. Treatment plans and options are discussed extensively with each patient.

Early detection and orthodontic dental treatment is highly recommended as children and teenagers are still undergoing bone growth. Early intervention also helps prevent future problems and complications. Suggested treatment options may include:

  • Oral appliances / palette expanders
  • Traditional braces or Invisalign – to correct bite issues it is often recommended for patients to wear elastics
  • Tooth Extraction may be recommended for overcrowded teeth and to allow for proper growth of permanent teeth
  • For severe cases in adults, a patient may be referred to an oral surgeon

To correct bite issues, a cosmetic dentist that understands orthodontics is recommended. If you’ve ever wondered why people have elastic bands while wearing braces, the rubber bands help to align your bite. They are an essential and very important component in correct orthodontic treatment. When applied correctly, elastic bands help to apply constant pressure to guide teeth and the jaw to their correct positions. Bite correction during orthodontic treatment is considered the longest and most difficult part of treatment.

To achieve optimum oral health and aesthetics results, a combination of treatments may be recommended by your dentist.


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