Complications From an Underbite
An extreme underbite can cause a facial abnormality, resulting in an extended chin. Besides the aesthetic problem, underbites can also cause other problems, including difficulty with chewing, swallowing and speaking. Bite problems caused by a prognathism can wear down tooth enamel, increasing your chance of developing tooth decay or other dental problems. Underbites have also been known to cause TMJ, a painful disorder of the jaw joint.
Underbite Treatment for Children
When it comes to underbite treatment, intervention is the best medicine. The earlier an underbite is treated, the better chances you'll have of avoiding dental surgery in the future. Ideally, treatment for an underbite should begin before the age of 8. During this time, childrens' jaws are still forming, making them easier to reshape.
If you're not sure whether your child has a prognathism, take him or her to an orthodontist for an evaluation. The American Dental Association recommends that every child should visit an orthodontist by the age of 7, leaving you plenty of time to intervene should your child be diagnosed with an orthodontic problem.
The following procedures are common underbite treatments for young children:
- An upper jaw expander is a molded plastic and wire device fixed to the roof of the mouth. A key is used to widen the expander on an nightly basis until treatment is complete, which usually takes about one year. Once the desired width is achieved, the expander is replaced with an orthodontic retainer.
- A reverse-pull face mask wraps around the head and attaches to metal bands on the upper back teeth to pull the upper jaw into place.
- Unlike the previous two treatments for underbites, which encourage the growth of the upper jaw, a chin cap restrains the growth of the lower jaw. It wraps from the chin to the top of the head and can be combined with reverse-pull face mask.
Not every treatment will completely eliminate the need for surgery later in life. But if the underbite is mild or dental (totally pertaining to the teeth), your dentist may choose to do nothing and treat it with dental braces as a teenager or adult. Regardless of what type of procedure is used early on, braces are usually needed later to complete treatment.
Adult treatment for underbites is more limited. Once the jaws have fully formed, expanders and masks will not help. If the underbite is skeletal in nature, dental surgery is typically needed to reposition the jaw. During this surgery, the lower jaw is pushed back or upper jaw is moved forward into a more desirable position. This type of surgery is usually done in a hospital setting under general anesthesia. Braces may be needed before and after the surgery as part of your treatment.
If the underbite is dental in nature, you may be able to avoid surgery. Tooth extractions may still be necessary to relieve overcrowding and dental braces are necessary to move teeth into the proper position.
It's never too late to correct your underbite.