Dentist showing patient a dental model of an underbite.
IN THIS ARTICLE

An underbite is a dental condition where the lower teeth extend out past the upper teeth. It is also known as a Class Three (3) malocclusion or prognathism. Class three underbites are notable for their bulldog-like appearance in your mouth and face. With a severe case of an underbite, the lower teeth may even extend forward instead of being positioned vertically in the mouth. While this cosmetic issue affects the smile, it can lead to more severe problems, such as difficulty biting and chewing, problems speaking, and mouth and jaw pain.

Common Causes of an Underbite

Typically, teeth grow to allow the upper teeth to fit a little bit over the lower teeth. The upper and lower molars should work together to allow better chewing. Proper teeth alignment also keeps you from biting your cheeks, lips, or tongue. Generally, underbite issues are genetic. Underbites, as well as teeth overcrowding, can run in the family. Other factors may cause an underbite as well. Underbites are associated with prolonged habits like thumb sucking, a pacifier, and a baby bottle.

According to The International Journal of Orthodontics, Milwaukee, a 2006 paper written by James Poyak concluded:

Pacifier use beyond the age of 3 contributes to a higher incidence in anterior open bite, posterior crossbite, and narrow intercuspid width. The greater the longevity and duration of pacifier use, the greater the potential for harmful results.

Additional underbite causes include injury to your face resulting in permanent damage to your jawbone. Surgery may repair or correct the damage. But, post-surgery, there are instances where your upper and lower jaw doesn't correctly fit. Lastly, tumors and tumor removal require the repair of your facial structure. The surgical repair may leave you with an underbite.

What Complications Result from an Underbite?

As with most dental problems, the range of complexities depends on the severity of the underbite. These difficulties affect a person's mental and physical health. In addition, the conditions that cause someone to have an underbite can worsen. As a result, further issues may develop over time. The common problems caused by an underbite include:

  1. Mouth breathing, which may aggravate asthma
  2. Sleep apnea
  3. Low self-esteem, which may worsen existing mental health issues or cause mental health issues
  4. Chronic jaw pain, which may worsen or develop into TMJ
  5. Headaches
  6. Toothaches
  7. Earaches, which may worsen into hearing problems
  8. Dizziness
  9. Speech problems
  10. Difficulty chewing
  11. Tooth decay
  12. Difficulty speaking
  13. Gingivitis

When Should You Fix an Underbite?

Underbite correction should occur as soon as possible for the best possible result. If an underbite is less severe for children, parents should wait until the child is around six (6) to ten (10) years old to see an Orthodontist. In addition, facemask appliances assist in easing lower front teeth into the proper place in children. However, your child may need further orthodontic correction down the road.

Surgery may be necessary for children suffering from a severe underbite caused by a congenital disability (cleft lip). Would you please speak with your Pediatric Dentist to see what course of treatment they recommend? Underbite surgery is necessary when it affects your child's quality of life. For example, does your child struggle with breathing, eating, or the ability to speak? In these instances, talk to your Pediatric Dentist as soon as possible.

Underbite Correction in Children and Adults

Usually, people have a slight misalignment of their teeth that does not require any medical treatment. However, correcting mild or severe underbites provides many benefits. For example, teeth will become easier to clean, tooth decay and gum disease risk decrease. In addition, you may have less pain and as well as less stress on your teeth, jaws, and facial muscles. In addition, you may lessen your risk of the following issues by corrective treatment: 1) Breaking a tooth; 2) Jaw pain; 3) Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ).

Pediatric dentists and orthodontists may suggest underbite correction methods using the following: 1) Upper jaw expanders; 2) Chin caps; 3) Reverse face masks; 4) Braces. Orthodontic treatment is the best course of action while your child's jaw continues growing. The American Academy of Orthodontics (AAO) suggests that all children get screened by the time they are seven years old.

Adult underbite surgery does not pose the same risks because your jaw growth is complete. Therefore, jaw surgery is usually low risk. Typically, healing from jaw surgery takes between six (6) to twelve (12) weeks. You should avoid tobacco products and strenuous activity so that your jaw can heal properly. In moderate cases of an adult underbite, tooth extraction may correct the problem. Braces and clear aligners can also fix an underbite. Sometimes, underbite correction may include both surgery and clear aligners.