An underbite can be one of the most prominent facial concerns because of the way it attracts attention, whether you are viewed head on or from the side. In a normal jawline, the upper teeth fit just over the lower teeth. However, having an underbite refers to when the lower jawbone protrudes upward and outward, extending past the upper jawbone in a significant and noticeable way. Treatment can be as simple as braces to as involved as orthognathic surgery depending on the severity of malocclusion.
Published: January 27, 2021
Last updated: January 27, 2021
An underbite can be one of the most prominent facial concerns because of the way it attracts attention, whether you are viewed head-on or from the side. In a normal jawline, the upper teeth fit just over the lower teeth. However, having an underbite refers to when the lower jawbone protrudes upward and outward, extending past the upper jawbone in a significant and noticeable way.
In medical terms, an underbite is called prognathism, and it means that some extent of malocclusion has occurred. Malocclusion simply refers to the misalignment of the teeth and is often a hereditary concern. It can also stem from things such as poor childhood habits (thumb sucking, finger sucking, prolonged pacifier use, etc.), improper dental work, and facial injuries.
Malocclusion can occur in three stages. Class I refers to a bite in which the upper jaw only slightly overlaps with the lower jaw. Class II denotes a severe overbite where the front teeth are vividly prominent, and Class III is the focus of this article – an underbite – or significant protrusion of the lower teeth. Although an underbite can be an aesthetic or cosmetic concern, a severe underbite can also cause deeper problems such as difficulty chewing, headaches, early tooth decay, and even difficulty with speech. For example, a severe underbite may cause a lisp or speech impediment that stems from the way the jaw overlaps the upper jawline. Fortunately, there are several ways to correct an underbite.
Prognathism – when the upper or lower jaw protrudes beyond the normal facial plane
Malocclusion – when the teeth are not aligned properly
How to Fix an Underbite: Braces, Invisalign, and Surgery
Just as there are several underbite causes, there are also several underbite treatment options. Orthodontic treatment ranks among the most popular of the treatments, especially in young children, but surgical options are available to correct bite problems as well.
Traditional Metal Braces Traditional metal braces are the most common way to correct a number of different mouth concerns including underbite, overbite, crossbite, open bite, overjet, a gummy smile, overcrowded teeth, and overly spaced teeth. This is one of the best options for children experiencing an underbite since their jaws are still palpable and will benefit from early treatment.
Fortunately, braces have come a long way from the braces of the past, and are much more discreet in their appearance. Be that as it may, braces for an underbite may also include headgear or an upper jaw expander as well. It is best to meet with a trusted and experienced orthodontist who can guide you towards your best treatment.
Lingual Braces Much like traditional metal braces, lingual braces can correct a large number of problems related to your teeth and jawline. The enticing thing about lingual braces is their placement on the backside of the teeth, the side touching the tongue. Popular brands include the Suresmile® Lingual OT, In-Ovations, STb™ Light Lingual System, Incognito™, and iBraces™, and each offers the same benefits as traditional metal braces without the obvious bracket placement.
Damon Braces Another option you may want to consider is the newer Damon® orthodontic braces. These are said to achieve the same results as traditional metal braces; however, these utilize a lightweight, high-tech “memory wire” that slides through the brackets without as much pressure and friction and without the need for as many adjustments. This novel wire-frame device also requires fewer follow-up visits which may make them a good option for patients busy lifestyles.
Clear Aligners and Invisalign Clear aligners, such as Invisalign®, often result in a much shorter treatment option than the traditional braces route. These systems can either operate via a mail-in program or through regularly scheduled orthodontic appointments. They work by taking a mold of the teeth and wearing a set of clear alignment trays that will move the teeth into place. The length of time aligners take to work varies from person to person, but in general, this is an increasingly popular option because of the way the aligner trays blend in with the natural color of the teeth.
Orthognathic Surgery Restructuring of the jaw can be a powerful way to reshape the entirety of the facial proportions. Orthognathic jaw surgery, or corrective jaw surgery, is one of the most permanent and effective ways of accomplishing this restructuring. This surgery will need to be performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) and is effective in treating several skeletal and dental concerns. It is particularly helpful for alleviating jawline issues related to eating difficulties, speaking and mouth breathing, especially breathing concerns such as sleep apnea.
Like most things, an underbite is best corrected earlier than later. The sooner you address your underbite, the sooner you can begin feeling the physical and aesthetic relief that you are seeking. Underbite correction will help your overall oral health and prevent issues such as tooth decay or gum disease, especially if coupled with overcrowded teeth leading to bacterial infections. You may already have a dental care system in place, but an underbite will require additional methods of care to prevent extreme cases of tooth-related issues. Speak with an orthodontist or a highly recommended oral and maxillofacial surgeon to begin the process of correcting your underbite. They will be your best source of direction as you seek to find the best correction method for your underbite. Undergoing this correction will improve your dental health and may also give a significant boost to your overall self-esteem. It is worth it to take the time to care for your teeth.
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