Have you finally decided to do something about your overbite? Solid training and loads of dental experience are what overbite patients should look for in a cosmetic dentist or an orthodontist. This must be paired with a personal commitment to do your research, ask lots of questions, and be meticulous in following protocol once treatment has started.
In a normal mouth, teeth are aligned so that the upper arch fits slightly over the lower teeth. The molars on the top fit into the topography of the molars on the bottom in an ideal occlusion. This is not the case with an overbite patient. An overbite, also known as a “Class 2 malocclusion,” is characterized by an ill-matched set of dental arches in which the top teeth overhang the bottom teeth in a pronounced way. The medical term is “retrognathism.”
An overbite may be the result of discrepancies in jaw size or because teeth are too small or too large for the mouth or face. Overcrowding and abnormal bite patterns are common in overbite patients and the top teeth often tilt out dramatically. The patient may even have an “open bite” in which there is a large anterior gap between the top and bottom teeth even when the back teeth are clenched shut. There is often a familial pattern seen in these cases. Other contributing factors may include:
- Thumb sucking or tongue thrusting as a child
- Prolonged use of a pacifier or bottle
- Birth defects
- Growth plate injuries in the jaw
- Misalignment after severe jaw fractures
- Extra or impacted teeth
- Tooth loss or abnormal tooth shape
- Bad orthodontic treatment
- Non-compliance in wearing retainers, headgear, etc.
- Inferior cosmetic treatment
Each patient’s mouth is unique, so there is no one-treatment-fits-all protocol. The teeth are different, the bone structure is different, and even the soft tissue varies from person to person. That’s why a thorough assessment is vitally important when considering dental intervention.
Most dentists will evaluate face shape, wear and tear on teeth, bite mechanics, speech patterns, and tooth structure through X-rays and other diagnostic tools. A correct diagnosis will determine a sound plan for overbite patients. In-office treatment will be offered, or your dentist may refer you to an orthodontist or a dental surgeon.
Ideally, early assessment and intervention will occur when a child is 9 or 10. External devices like headgear and helix springs can guide jaw growth – especially if a child has a cross-bite. A dormant tooth can be lifted into place, and baby teeth or extra teeth can be removed strategically. Braces are typically put on when the child is in a very active growth phase (puberty), typically between10-13 years of age, and when most/all of the adult teeth have erupted.
Overbites can be corrected or at least modified in adults, but results vary depending on the age of the patient and the mode of treatment selected. Baby boomers can wear braces to reduce crowding and to correct a bad bite. Typically, bite repositioning in adults takes longer than orthodontia in adolescence, because bone absorption and regrowth are slower, but tooth movement and eventual stabilization are possible. A permanent retainer wire may be cemented to the inside of the bottom teeth, or a removable retainer may be issued for use at home and while sleeping.
Patients with mild overbites also may opt for treatment other than traditional metal orthodontia. Crowns, porcelain veneers, facelift dentistry, and clear Invisalign braces may be considered. In some cases, severe overbites may be treated with a combination of orthognathic surgery and a stint in braces. Oral surgery in which the jaw is broken and repositioned is not easy, but may be required for severe bite problems and collapsed profiles that cause the face to look misshapen.
By treating malocclusion, adults will find that their teeth are easier to clean and temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ) and facial pain may dissipate. Straight teeth are less apt to decay because they can be cleaned properly. The risk of gingivitis is likely to diminish, as well as the wear and tear due to friction between ill-fitting teeth. An increase in self-esteem and confidence in one’s looks and the ability to speak and chew properly are also major pluses for adult patients considering treatment for their overbites.
If you have chewing or speaking problems that you think are associated with your overbite, call your dentist. If your overbite makes you self-conscious, don’t brood over it. Take action! Your dentist has cosmetic dentistry solutions that may make all the difference in your social and work interactions and your self-esteem! Call your dentist today.
Non-Surgical Mouth Reconstruction and Facelift Dentistry, Santa Monica, CA