What Should You Do If You Have An Underbite In Bellflower, CA?

Treating your underbite is more than a cosmetic problem. Without treatment, it can have a significant impact on your health and well-being.

If you don’t have a perfectly straight and aligned smile, you’re not alone. Many people have malocclusions, or bad bites, that don’t allow their upper and lower jaws to meet like they should. One of the most common malocclusions is underbite. Clinically known as “prognathism,” it is the opposite of its sibling, overbite. Instead of the upper jaw pulling in front of the bottom one, the lower jaw juts out in front. While many cases are minor and almost unnoticeable, others can be painful and so severe that the upper and lower front teeth can’t meet at all.

There’s no one reason why this bad bite develops, though it often has a genetic component. Underbite tends to run in families and can be seen even from birth. It can also be caused by:

Bad childhood habits like thumb sucking and mouth breathing
Using a pacifier or baby bottle for too long
Jaw damage and injury as a kid
Tumors in the mouth or jaw

The Risks Of Untreated Underbite

Underbite isn’t just an aesthetic issue that changes the shape and look of your face and smile. It can also have a significant impact on your oral health and daily life. Until the bite is corrected, patients typically suffer from one or more of the following problems.

TMJ Disorder
Patients with underbite also commonly experience TMJ disorder, which occurs when the joint connecting the upper and lower jaws falls out of alignment, wears down, or becomes damaged. Without underbite and TMJ treatment, patients often suffer from:

Neck, jaw joint, and jaw pain
Facial and jaw swelling
Chronic headaches and ear pain
Clicking, popping, and grating noises when opening and closing your mouth
Difficulty opening your mouth, chewing, or speaking
Jaw locking shut

Speech Problems
With uneven bites, your mouth can’t move and form sounds as it should, often leading to speech problems. Common issues include slurring and lisping, which can extend past childhood and into a lifelong issue.

Difficulty Eating
For more severe underbite, the upper and lower jaws can’t bite down together correctly or at all. We depend on the back molars especially when chewing and eating, but these are usually the first teeth to be impacted by underbite. In many cases, this leads to taking too-big bites and problems digesting food.

Poor Dental Health
Underbite causes an uneven amount of pressure on the jaws and dental wear and tear. This can lead to painful tooth sensitivity and make the teeth more vulnerable to oral bacteria and infection. With thinner enamel, plaque and bacteria need less time to break down the tooth’s hard surface, allowing cavities to form fast and furious.

Sleep Apnea
By changing how your jaws meet, underbite can cause several breathing issues, particularly obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea often leads to snoring, mouth breathing, and waking up in the middle of the night. For many patients, this condition doesn’t just affect them but those around them, making it difficult for them and their loved ones to get a good night’s rest.

Low Self-Esteem and Confidence
Having an underbite can also affect a person’s self-confidence and esteem. With an abnormal jaw, issues speaking clearly, and frequent dental health problems, their mental health can take a hit, especially as they try to hide their smile. Smiling can play a significant impact on your happiness as the act itself can release endorphins and stress-relief hormones that give us a mental and emotional boost.

Correcting Underbite

How does an orthodontist correct an underbite? Depending on the severity, our orthodontics team may suggest one of these treatment options.

Upper Jaw Expander

A palate expander is an orthodontic appliance that helps widen the upper jaw to free up room in the mouth. It is made up of a system wireframe spanning across the upper palate and a metal body keeping it together. By turning a key in the body every night, the wire arms extend further and push the jaw out gradually. This procedure usually takes between four months and a year.

Expanders are often used as part of early orthodontics before all of a child’s baby teeth have fallen out. This is usually done between ages 8 and 10, though it can be started early too. Can adults have palatal expanders? Yes. While upper jaw expanders can work smoother and more comfortably during preteen-hood, adult patients can still use them to fix their underbite.

Reverse-Pull Face Mask

A reverse-pull face mask is one of the most effective ways to correct underbite while bypassing surgery altogether. Looking similar to braces headgear, this external device is placed against the forehead and chin and connects to an existing treatment, usually an expander, via rubber bands. These strong rubber bands pull the upper palate forward while the face mask keeps the lower jaw steadily in place.

Patients don’t have to use their reverse headgear 24/7 as with braces or expanders. Still, they should wear their face mask 12 to 18 hours every day, especially at night. However, wearing them for 24 hours speeds up the procedure’s timeline, just like starting earlier can. Children as young as 5 or 6 can get reverse headgear for their underbite, though patients should start their treatment before age 10 while the upper jaw is still growing.

Braces and Clear Aligners

With mild or moderate underbite, bracket braces and Invisalign can pull the jaws into alignment and perform additional teeth straightening, if necessary. Braces and clear aligners often use elastic bands to pull the jaws into their proper positions. This can take between four months and a year, depending on the bite’s severity.

These procedures are also often used as a type of “phase 2” treatment after an expander. Expanders only open up the jaw more and give the teeth space to move, but they don’t do the actual moving themselves. However, braces and aligners can straighten the teeth and jaws into their final locations.

Jaw Surgery

In the most severe cases, a patient’s underbite can only be fixed through corrective jaw surgery. These procedures are used to reshape the jaws, either shortening the lower one or lengthening the upper one. An oral surgeon may need to remove or add a small portion of the bone during this process. You might also have metal screws or plates inserted to stabilize the jaw and ensure your new bite sticks.

Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Best Age For Orthodontic Treatment?

No matter the procedure you need, it’s always better to start underbite treatment earlier if possible. Severe cases can significantly impact their quality of life, so taking them on before the jaw stops growing and is no longer malleable is crucial. How early a patient starts usually depends on the bite’s severity and type of treatment.

With jaw surgery and reverse headgear, an orthodontist may want to start before permanent teeth start coming in. Early surgery is especially common for children born with a cleft lip. Luckily, these more severe underbite problems can be seen even before most children are screened for orthodontic issues at age 7.

We recommend starting later with minor underbite that can be fixed with braces and Invisalign, with 7 years old being the earliest. If an expander is required beforehand, our orthodontists will start treatment between 8 and 10 years old. These patients can then wear braces or clear aligners between ages 11 and 14, when most permanent teeth have come in.

Why Does My Orthodontist Want To Remove My Teeth?

While extractions are always a last resort, we may suggest having one or two teeth pulled for your underbite. For some patients, overcrowded teeth put too much pressure on their jaws, making their underbite worse. Pulling a tooth frees up room in the mouth and relieves some of the stress. This helps the jaws relax into better positions and allows additional treatment like expanders and braces to work more effectively and efficiently.

How Much Do Braces Cost?

A patient’s braces or Invisalign cost depends on several deciding factors, including:

Type of treatment (bracket braces vs. Invisalign)
Length of treatment
Complexity of orthodontic work needed
Dental insurance plan

Not all dental insurance policies offer orthodontia, but many full coverage plans do. While insurance can go a long way to ensure braces or clear aligners are affordable, our dental office wants to help those without a plan too. Here at Bellflower Dental, we offer in-house financing and accept multiple alternative financing options like CareCredit Dental and Wells Fargo Health Advantage. This allows our patients to pay for their treatment while staying safely within budget.

Are you ready to take on your or your child’s underbite problem head-on? If you have any questions or wish to schedule an orthodontic consultation, please call our Bellflower dental office today at (323) 486-6579.

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