LAST UPDATED: NOVEMER 29, 2017
What are the most common causes of and solutions for overbites?
Having an overbite is a common problem in the North American culture. In other populations, people are more prone to having underbites where their jaws stick out relative to their upper jaws.
In the United States, the majority of people with bite issues have overbites, meaning the top teeth stick out relative to the bottom teeth. Let’s look at the causes, how to treat overbites and the best time for treatment.
Causes of overbites:
1. Genetics: The genes you got from mom, dad, grandma and grandpa are the No. 1 cause. There are two reasons: 1) Your upper jaw is too developed relative to your lower jaw, sticking out too far. This is uncommon. 2) Your lower jaw is underdeveloped, which is most common.
2. A Habit: You may be a thumb-sucker or sucked on a pacifier when you were younger. Habits are easier to fix because we don’t have to remodel and guide the jaws. We just fix the teeth and bring them back into a proper position.
3. Upper teeth stick out further than the lower teeth: That could just be the position the teeth came in. Again, this is easier to fix by bringing the teeth back into a proper position.
How to Treat Overbites?
Several years ago, it was more popular to use headgear to fix large overbite problems, but I don’t like using it. Headgear attaches to the braces in the back of the upper teeth, pulling back the upper jaw. But, the problem is not usually in the upper jaw. Usually the upper jaw is fine. The reason you have an overbite is the lower jaw is set back or detruded. So, if you use headgear to fix an overbite, you cause the upper jaw to match the lower jaw, which is detruded. So, now your teeth fit together, but you have a detruded upper jaw and a detruded lower jaw, which doesn’t look nice aesthetically. This gives you a flat facial appearance, looking like you have fake teeth. So, instead of headgear, we want to correct this problem by encouraging the lower jaw to grow and match that upper jaw.
We can make changes a couple ways:
1. Use elastics: Elastics attach, depending on which way we want the teeth and jaws to move, from the bottom braces to the top ones or vice versa. This lets the upper jaw come out and the lower jaw go in. In cases where there’s an overbite, we would do the opposite because we want the lower jaw to go out and the upper jaw to come in. We use elastics in less severe cases. In severe cases, we have other ways to help guide jaw growth.
2. Use an appliance: If someone has a large overbite, with the lower jaw set back quite far, we use a spring that sits inside the mouth and cheeks. This allows you to chew and open/close your mouth normally. The spring is constantly working to put out a constant amount of force 24 hours a day. The opening and closing motion will put more force on the teeth, allowing the lower jaw to go into a better position. Again, this appliance is used in severe cases where you could stick your whole thumb in between your upper and lower jaw. And, it does speed up treatment quite a bit compared to wearing the elastics.
Best time for treatment
It’s hard to make the jaw grow more than it would genetically, but timing wise we can remodel the bones to maximize growth potential. The best time is usually before children hit their peak growth spurt–10-11 years old for girls and ages 11-13 for boys. Before they hit the peak growth spurt, their jaws will grow with their lower jaws growing the most.
If you have an overbite, you may want to consider visiting an orthodontist for a consultation. The orthodontists at Beecroft Orthodontics are always happy to help. Visit them today if you have any oral issues.
Beecroft Orthodontics, 10472 Georgetown Dr. Fredericksburg, Virginia
Overbite: Causes & Treatments