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Crossbites and Overbites and Underbites...Oh My

Did you know there is a direct correlation between your bite and your overall health? When your teeth and jaws are not properly aligned, chewing, speech breathing and facial growth can be affected.  As the result of a malocclusion, also referred to as “bad bite,” your teeth may become increasingly crooked, worn or protruded over time.  Most people experience some degree of malocclusion, but it is generally not severe enough to require corrective measures.  If your malocclusion is serious enough, orthodontic treatment is necessary to correct the issue.

A malocclusion may also be referred to as having an overjet, overbite, underbite or crossbite.  So, what is the difference between these four skeletal conditions?

Overjet occurs when your upper teeth and jaw protrude or stick out beyond the bottom teeth and jaw.  This basically means that the upper jaw has grown too much compared to the lower jaw.  This condition is usually genetic but oral habits like thumb or finger sucking may play a role too.

Contrast this with an overbite, which is when the upper teeth cover the bottom teeth too much.  In severe cases, the lower teeth actually bite onto the palate.  Overbites can lead to excessive wear on the tooth surfaces and can be a factor in temporomandibular disorders (TMJ problems).

Crossbites, which can involve a single tooth or a group of teeth, usually occur when the width of your upper and lower jaws are not proportional to each other.  Typically the upper jaw will be too narrow, but the reverse can also happen.  Expansion appliances placed in growing patients can predictably correct this problem.

Underbites are the opposite of overjet and occur when the lower teeth and jaw protrude past the upper front teeth.  This genetic condition is caused by either undergrowth of the upper jaw, overgrowth of the lower jaw, or both.  This problem is typically more complicated, and might not be able to be fully corrected with braces alone.

Fortunately, we are able to treat these types of bite problems. If you suspect your child has a bite misalignment, we encourage you to be examined as early as possible.  Growth modification during the preteen and early teen years can especially helpful if the skeletal discrepancy is severe.  For older teens and adults with one these conditions, treatment is also possible but will usually take longer and may require extractions or surgery to make the necessary changes.

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American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) American Association of Orthodontists (AAO)