What Constitutes a Bad Bite?
It might sound weird, but having a bad bite (or in dentist-speak, “malocclusion”) is actually pretty common. It happens when your teeth don’t fit properly together, causing issues like jaw pain, tooth cracks, and gum disease. Because of the strange layout of your mouth, malocclusions can even affect the way you eat and speak.
Bad bites are caused by several factors. Firstly, it can be hereditary—if a bad bite is written in your DNA, there’s not much you can do to prevent it. Secondly, it can be caused by bad habits—for example, if a toddler sucks on their thumb longer than they should be, their jaw development can get a little wonky and grow into a bad bite. Lastly, it can be caused by your teeth—if you have extra teeth, lacking teeth, or abnormally-shaped teeth, that also leads to a bad bite.
What are the Kinds of Bad Bites?
You’ve probably already heard of the overbite and the underbite, but did you know there’s a total of four kinds of bad bites?
While a good bite usually has the upper teeth overlapping the lower a little, an overbite has the upper teeth overlapping way too much. This is due to the size of your mouth—if your teeth are either too large for your mouth, or your jaw is too large for your teeth, an overbite can happen. In the former case, your teeth could crowd and become crooked, while in the latter, your teeth could be spaced farther apart than usual.
As the name suggests, an underbite is the opposite of an overbite. It is the unnatural overlapping of your lower teeth over the upper.
Underbites take both physical and mental tolls on people who have them. On one hand, underbites can cause temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), which painfully affects the joint connecting your skull and jaw. It can also cause breathing problems like bad breath, heavy snoring, and mouth breathing.
Crossbites are a mix of both overbites and underbites. In a crossbite, several teeth are misaligned from the others in the row, leading to some teeth in the front and some in the back.
There are two kinds of crossbites—posterior and anterior. In a posterior crossbite, a group of lower teeth toward the back of your jaw fit over the top. In the anterior, a group of lower front teeth fits over the upper.
Anterior crossbites differ from underbites as only some teeth are in front—in an underbite, all lower teeth are overlapping the upper.
An open bite happens when none of your front teeth touch. As your back teeth are taking more pressure, open bites make them fracture and wear down more easily. Additionally, people with open bites are more prone to developing speech problems like lisps.
Open bites are usually caused by unhealthy childhood habits like thumb and pacifier sucking. Their teeth don’t grow as far in as they should because of the blockage. It can also be caused by people inserting their tongues between their teeth as they talk.
How Do I Fix a Bad Bite?
If you have symptoms of a bad bite like a stiff jaw, headaches, teeth grinding, and speech problems, then you might want to visit your dentist and confirm it with them if they haven’t already noticed it themselves. Fortunately, all bad bites are easily treatable, though the recovery process will be longer the older you are.
Here are some of the most popular treatments for bad bites.
Braces and Retainers
Braces involve attaching metal brackets and wires to the teeth to straighten them with constant pressure. Retainers, on the other hand, are removable appliances that keep teeth in a constant position as the teeth adjust to their new positions. While retainers are mostly worn after braces, they can also be used to make minor adjustments to bites.
The average person can only hold 28 teeth and sometimes even less. If your jaw is too small, the dentist might remove extra teeth to prevent bad bites from happening.
In kids, the dentist usually removes baby teeth and extra teeth to prevent crookedness. In adults, the dentist only extracts teeth for severe bad bites.
Braces and Expanders
Sometimes a bad bite happens because of jaw misalignment or bad skeletal structure. Equipment like headgear braces and jaw expanders help to fix this by applying constant pressure to your facial structure itself. Headgear braces pull back your upper or lower jaws, while jaw expanders, quite literally, are mouthpieces that widen your jaw.
An orthodontist might recommend jaw surgery in very extreme cases. It is only done when all other treatments and remedies have been exhausted.
In jaw surgery, a maxillofacial surgeon installs metal plates, screws, and wires to forcefully align the jaw in its proper place.
Bad bites are very commonplace and not usually a serious cause of concern. If you think you or your loved ones have a bad bite, make sure to consult an orthodontist as early as possible as they’ll be able to give you the best advice on how to correct it.