Open Bite: What It Is and Why It Matters
You may have heard of crooked teeth, overbites, underbites and spacing issues, but what about an open bite? Many patients are only familiar with some of the more common malocclusions, or issues with the teeth; however, open bites occur just as often as any of the other alignment problems, and when not addressed, they can cause problems.
When it comes to orthodontic treatment, many people think since they’re used to the issues with their teeth, they don’t need to worry about correcting them. But not addressing these issues can create extreme discomfort as we age. Here’s what you need to know about an open bite.
What Is an Open Bite?
An open bite is a type of malocclusion where the upper and lower teeth do not come in contact when biting down. This results in a vertical gap in between the teeth. Most instances refer to an anterior open bite. Those with an anterior open bite have front upper and lower teeth that slant outward so their teeth don’t touch.
What Causes an Open Bite?
An open bite is normally caused by four factors:
Genetics: Genetic factors can cause skeletal problems in which the jaw grows apart instead of parallel.
Thumb sucking: When someone sucks their thumb, pacifier, or other foreign object, they strain the alignment of their teeth, which results in this open bite.
Tongue thrusts: this is a habit in which one speaks or swallows while pushing their tongue between their upper and lower teeth. This can also cause gaps between the teeth.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder: TMJ refers to a wide range of health conditions related to your jaw. TMJ can cause tenderness and difficulty moving the joint and facial pain.
All of the factors mentioned above can cause teeth to become misaligned and an open bite to form. An open bite should be addressed as soon as possible, as it can cause problems with everyday tasks.
Open Bite vs Overbite
An orthodontist helps correct many different types of bite issues, also called malocclusion. In a proper bite, the rows of upper and lower connect all the way across. The upper teeth should overlap the bottom teeth slightly when the mouth is fully closed.
An open bite occurs when the upper and lower teeth do not come in contact when biting down. This often results in a noticeable gap between the arches of the teeth when the jaw is closed. Not only does an open bite affect appearance, but it also can cause challenges with speaking and eating as well.
While an open bite refers to the upper and lower teeth not making contact, an overbite presents the opposite problem. An overbite is the vertical overlap of the upper front teeth over the lower front teeth. This can occur due to genetics or due to bad habits formed during a child’s formative years. Having an overbite can cause significant problems, including painful jaw problems, wear on the lower teeth, and gum irritation.
Open Bite Surgery
Most cases of an open bite can be resolved through a non-surgical orthodontic treatment plan. The earlier the intervention from an orthodontist, the better chance of resolving the orthodontic issue without surgery. This reinforces how essential it is that a child visit an orthodontist at age seven. There are some cases of an open dental bite that can only be solved through surgery, oftentimes in adults. Orthodontic surgery is performed bimaxillary, meaning it will properly position both arches, the jaw and the maxilla. This is a relatively low-risk surgery, but patients may experience some discomfort and swelling.
Open bites can make eating extremely difficult, especially when biting into certain foods. Since the top and bottom teeth don’t meet in the front, it can be virtually impossible to bite into a sandwich. Can you imagine the frustration? They can also cause problems with speech, as well as aesthetic issues, leading to low self-confidence. This type of malocclusion can also cause premature and unnecessary wear on your teeth, which can result in pain and discomfort as time progresses.
Does an Open Bite Get Worse?
An overbite, the space between the upper and front teeth, can increase over time.This worsening can cause long-term effects that may require additional restorative treatment. Obtaining a consultation and receiving orthodontic treatment early is essential to prevent this worsening.
Fixing a Bite Issue
Seeking help from an orthodontist is recommended if you’re suffering from an open bite. Braces or Invisalign may help correct your bite, so speak to your orthodontist about these options. Your preference on your treatment plan will depend on what you’re comfortable with and what is recommended to treat your issue. It should be noted that in some serious cases, jaw surgery may be needed to fix this bite issue. You won’t know for sure which avenue is right for you until you speak to a qualified professional and get a game plan together. If your child has an open bite, seeing an orthodontist as early as age 7 will make fixing the issue easier since their jaws are still developing.
All of the means mentioned above take a different approach, but they all have the same end goal—to close the gap between the top and bottom teeth and make everyday activities easier. If you choose to live with your open bite thinking it’s no big deal because you are used to it, you may be surprised when it starts to really interfere with your everyday habits. The best course of action is to take action. See an orthodontist about your open bite so that together, you can craft a plan to get your bite realigned and your smile perfect in no time.
At Milnor Orthodontics, our experts are here to help you achieve a priceless smile. Call our office at (970) 230-3187 or visit milnororthodontics.com to learn more. We're located at 1103 S. Shields St. in Fort Collins, Colorado.