Overbites, Underbites, and Crossbites—Understanding the Difference
You’ve heard of overbites, underbites, and crossbites; you or your child may even be suffering from one of these conditions—but how exactly do you know which is which? It may seem difficult to keep these terms straight in your head, but fortunately they aren’t difficult to straighten out with proper orthodontic care. Today we’ll be talking about each of these conditions to give you a better idea of your situation so you can start the journey to making your bite right.
Having an overbite isn’t necessarily a problem—in fact, having some degree of an overbite is healthy! Our upper teeth should overlap our lower teeth, but when the gap is too little or too large, problems start to arise. Overbites are the most common bite problem to have. They can be hereditary, although they are more commonly caused by underdevelopment in the lower jaw during childhood. When the jaw sits too far back, leaving a large gap between the upper and lower teeth, this is called a deep overbite. Early childhood habits like thumb sucking, nail biting, or prolonged bottle feeding can cause or worsen these problems.
Without treatment, even simple overbites can lead to tooth grinding, jaw pain, and headaches. Fortunately, there is no age limit on treating the overbite (though it is easier to fix in younger children), and the range of treatment can cover everything from small misalignments to severe maladjustments.
The underbite is the opposite of the overbite, where the lower teeth protrude out in front of the upper teeth. Unlike overbites, underbites are primarily hereditary, although they too can be caused or exacerbated by childhood behaviors like thumb sucking and tongue thrusting. People suffering from underbites often report trouble chewing, strain in the teeth and jaw muscles, and even trouble speaking.
Untreated underbites carry all the same potential woes as overbites, but with some more amplified ailments: earaches, joint pain, excessive tooth enamel wear, and tooth decay. Braces are the most common treatment for underbites, although special appliances can be custom made if necessary. Occasionally, surgery is required, but only as a last resort; most underbites are easy to treat!
The crossbite may be the least familiar bite problem on the list, but that doesn’t mean it’s too rare or too difficult to treat. One to sixteen percent of children have this kind of malocclusion, or imperfect bite alignment, where the top teeth on the right or left side of the mouth sit inside the bottom teeth. In other words, the lower set of teeth sits closer to the cheek, leaving the top set to rest inside them instead of on top of them.
The stress of a crossbite can cause abnormal growth, leading to gum disease, chronic jaw, neck, shoulder, and back pain, and even asymmetry in facial features. Though these are the most severe potential side effects, they’re easy to avoid with treatment. Often, a palatal or maxillary expander will be attached to the upper teeth that gradually widens the upper palate; in other cases, removable expanders and braces can solve the problem.
If you or your child’s bite isn’t right, there’s no better time than the present to set it straight. A properly aligned bite is important for a healthy mouth and a happy attitude. Make an appointment with Birmingham Orthodontics today to talk about the best options for you.
At Birmingham Orthodontics, our mission is simple: we create smiles. Not only do we straighten the crooked grin, fix the bite, and adjust the jaw, we also brighten yearbooks, help young people come to like their looks, and give adults the confidence they have wanted for a long, long time. We also believe in our staff. Our culture of continuous learning has allowed us to host monthly training sessions for each team and bring in leading industry consultants to help keep us ahead of the curve. Contact us for a free consultation, or any questions you might have.