People deal with health issues daily. They can be as simple as seasonal allergies, chronic migraines, and even life-threatening as is the case with cancer. To complicate matters, sometimes one health problem can be the springboard to another, more serious matter. An underbite is one such example.
A person has an underbite when the lower jaw (the mandible) overlaps the upper jaw (the maxilla) causing the upper teeth to close behind the lower teeth. Some underbites are hereditary. Those cases usually reveal a larger lower jaw than upper jaw. Underbites can also result from thumb-sucking, jaw bone development issues, and poor chewing habits notes DentalHealthMed.com (DHM). If left untreated, an underbite can cause health problems such as tooth enamel and decay issues, low self-esteem, and sleep apnea.
Tooth Enamel and Decay
Known as the hardest substance in the human body, tooth enamel is the layer that protects your teeth. Once the enamel is worn away, a tooth’s dentin is exposed. Dentin is a bone-like material that comprises most of a tooth. Inside the dentin are tiny tubules that connect a tooth’s nerves with its surface. Without enamel, tooth nerves are subjected to sensitivity caused by hot and cold foods and liquids.
Tooth decay is also a consequence of worn-away enamel. After the protective enamel is gone, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that cause cavity production notes the American Dental Association (ADA).
As noted by DHM, low self-esteem can stem from an underbite. The University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center defines self-esteem as people’s thoughts and feelings about themselves. Those thoughts and feelings can fluctuate depending upon daily experiences. People with healthy self-esteem can accurately assess themselves and still accept who they are. Those with poor self-esteem rely on in-the-now emotions to determine how they feel about themselves, as witnessed in The Emotional Weight of Severe Jaw Misalignment.
Low self-esteem can emanate from criticism, abuse, being ridiculed and teased, and unrealistic expectations. And it can have serious repercussions including stress, anxiety, and the likelihood of depression. Difficulties can arise with friendships, romantic relationships, academics, and with job performance. The chance of drug and alcohol abuse also increases.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), sleep apnea is a serious, yet common, health condition. Airflow becomes reduced or stopped when the upper airway becomes repeatedly blocked during sleep. Left undiagnosed or untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a heart attack, cancer, diabetes, glaucoma, and behavioral and cognitive disorders. Sleep apnea can occur due to having a small maxilla (upper jaw bone) notes the University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter. A small upper jaw bone is one of the causes of an underbite.
The NHLBI lists some of the more common sleep apnea signs and symptoms. Signs include gasping for air while you sleep along with loud snoring and a lack of or reduction in breathing (referred to as an apnea event). Symptoms to watch for include being excessively sleepy or fatigued during the day and decreased attention, concentration, and motor skills. Other symptoms are dry mouth and headaches during the waking hours, a decreased libido or sexual dysfunction, and frequently waking up to urinate at night.
Treatment options include making healthy lifestyle changes and breathing devices. Consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis if you think you suffer from sleep apnea.
If you’re having health issues that you think might be due to an underbite, consult a dentist. He can determine if you have an underbite and help decide upon the correct treatment, including non-surgical solutions. You may also want to seek medical attention from your primary care physician if you think your health warrants it.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Sam Muslin, DDS.
Steven Auger is a born and bred New Englander and lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Lauren, their young sons, Andrew and Adam, and their dog, Layla. In his spare time, he enjoys staying physically fit, traveling, and cooking. Follow him on Twitter.