Underbite is not considered very good looking in our society. But it can also have some negative effects on oral health (and, in turn, overall health).
But first, we’ll cover what underbite actually is, what causes it, and how it can be treated.Creative Commons
What Is An Underbite?
An underbite is when your lower teeth protrude outward farther than the upper front teeth. Typically, it creates a similar appearance to a bulldog’s teeth. Although different people’s situations can vary, it’s usually considered a class 3 malocclusion.
There are many reasons a person may develop underbite. Below are some of the most common causes of underbite.
Habits In Childhood
The habits you have a child could affect how your teeth grow in. For example, you could develop an underbite from:
- Thumb sucking
- Tongue thrusting into teeth
- Use of a pacifier after the age of 3
- Feeding from a bottle after infant years
Most of the time, underbites are inherited. If just one other person in your family has an underbite, it’s likely that you will too.
Because genetics determine your tooth and jaw shape and size, any naturally occurring dental issue in your family could be passed on to you.
If you experience a severe acute injury to your face or jaw, it could lead to damage to the jawbones that affects how your teeth sit in your mouth. Many times you can get your jaw fixed, but sometimes jaws don’t heal perfectly after the injury and surgery.
Needless to say, this type of thing can lead to underbite.
Jaw or mouth tumors can shift the teeth disproportionately, causing teeth protrusion and, potentially, underbite.
How To Fix Underbite?
Most people don’t have perfect teeth — if your teeth are just slightly misaligned, they may not need any medical treatment.
But there are some people with severe enough underbite that treatment is a good idea, for the sake of that person’s quality of life. Here some ways how it will improve things:
- It’s easier to clean your teeth
- There’s less risk for tooth decay
- There’s less risk for gum disease
- Treatment can relieve tension in your jaw and facial muscles
- You’ll be less likely to break a tooth
- There’s a lower chance of developing TMJ dysfunction
So here are some the most effective ways to treat underbite…
Braces & Other Orthodontic Appliances
Braces are probably your best option for correcting underbite. And we don’t recommended getting fake braces or DIY braces that you’d assemble at home.
The only way to actually fix underbite is by going to a dental professional, usually an orthodontist or an oral surgeon. Sadly, this isn’t something that can be corrected with Invisalign.
In more mild cases of underbite, a dentist can possibly use wire or plastic braces to shift teeth into their correct spots. They may also recommend removing one or two teeth from the lower jaw if overcrowding is an issue. They may also choose to use a tool that files down some of your teeth.
Most oral surgeons can correct underbites through surgery, no problem. Some of the things involved in surgery for underbite include reshaping the jaw, wires, metal plates, and screws.
Just like any surgery, there are risks. Complications could happen, and there may be an uncomfortable or painful recovery period.
If you have dental insurance, you may be able to pay as little as $100 for underbite surgery. However, if your policy has a maximum for jaw surgery, you could pay up to $5,000. Obviously, this can vary depending on the provider and plan. In some cases, the provider may not deem the surgery as medically necessary.
What about if you don’t have insurance? Well, an underbite surgery can be as much as $20,000 up to $40,000!
The reason it’s so expensive is because it involves the initial exam, X-rays, anesthesia, bone cutting and reshaping, and repositioning of the jaw. There’s also a lot of materials needed, like metal plates, wires, and screws that hold the jaw in place post-surgery.
After getting surgery, it can take 1-3 weeks to full recover, and then you may need some sort of orthodontic treatment afterwards (like braces or a retainer).
In mild cases of underbite, you can use cosmetic dentistry to help the situation. A dental professional would put veneers on your upper teeth. However, if the patient is older or if the case is any more serious than mild, it may require one of the above approaches.
Overbite vs Underbite
The difference between an overbite and an underbite is clear. An underbite is when the lower teeth protrude past the upper teeth, and an overbite is when the upper teeth protrude over the lower teeth.
Overbites don’t normally need as much treatment as an underbite does.
- The reasons a person may get an underbite include thumb sucking, using a pacifier late into childhood, genetics, acute injury, and a tumor.
- Treating underbite should be done by a professional, which will involve orthodontics or even surgery. You can do some at-home treatments that may help alleviate the symptoms but nothing that will fix the problem.
- Surgery for underbite can cost up to $40,000, so it’s important to have dental insurance or even a dental savings plan.