We don’t often think about how our teeth sit in our mouth, but it’s an important part of our dental health. For most people, the front teeth rest slightly ahead of the bottom teeth. An underbite is the opposite - it occurs when the lower jaw is farther forward, causing the bottom teeth to be in front of the top teeth. Also known as malocclusion (misaligned teeth) or prognathism (a protruding jaw), this condition results in pain, difficulty chewing, and tooth decay. This article will help you learn more about what causes underbites and how to treat them:

 

Causes 

This condition affects roughly 5-10% of the population, and like most conditions, there are several potential causes. The primary cause is genetic: if you have parents or relatives with an underbite, your odds of having one are increased. Childhood habits can influence its development, including pacifiers and bottle feeding (past age 3), and thumb-sucking. If you sustain an injury to the jawbone, it could result in an underbite. 

 

Symptoms 

The most obvious indication of an underbite is the physical appearance of it. It can result in a “bulldog-like” appearance, which often impacts the self-esteem of those who suffer from it. Overcrowded teeth are another common symptom, along with jaw pain, headaches, bruxism (teeth grinding), and ear discomfort. It can also cause sleep apnea, a conditioner that’s associated with a relatively high fatality rate. The misalignment of the jaw can wear on the teeth and result in enamel decay. To alleviate these unfortunate side effects, patients need to seek treatment from a dentist. 

 

Treatment Options

Thankfully, there are ways to cure an underbite. The sooner a person receives treatment, the more effective it tends to be. For young patients, an upper jaw expander is used. It gradually widens the upper jaw to prevent the lower teeth from protruding. After a year of regular use, a retainer is made to maintain results. Another option is reverse pull headgear. This device is used for up to 18 hours a day; it is worn like a facemask, and it attaches to the upper jaw to pull it forward using rubber bands. Braces or tooth extractions can help with realigning the jaw. 

In some cases, dental surgery may be required. The lower jaw may be shortened, or the upper jaw, lengthened. To maintain the shape, screws, wires, or plates are sometimes installed in the jawbone. Surgery is an effective treatment but it comes with risks: general anesthesia is used, and patients may experience an infection or scarring.

Dentists may be able to cosmetically fix the underbite. They reshape the bottom teeth and then attach veneers to the upper teeth. This method is suitable for mild conditions and may not alleviate all symptoms, but it will help patients who want to fix the look of a protruding jaw.

An untreated underbite can lead to dental problems and complications like pain, tooth decay, and/or issues chewing. Visit a Winnipeg dental clinic to consult with a dentist about your oral concerns. At EK Dental, we have experience treating those who suffer from this condition; contact us today to learn more about your treatment options.