What is an Underbite?
There are many articles out there discussing the underbite. If you ask around many people have heard this term but few know exactly what that means. It is important to note that an underbite is not necessarily a bad thing and may never need to be corrected. Basically in dentistry, a ‘bite’ is how your upper and lower teeth fit together. With an underbite, the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth when you bite down. If you would like answers to questions related to your or a family member’s bite ask your dentist. Our office would be happy to offer you recommendations and discuss treatment options.
Most poeple have some degree of an overbite. This condition in which the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth is normal and somewhat protective. The less contact of the incisal edges (the edges of your upper and lower front teeth) the less wear that is likely to occur over time. An underbite is also called a Class III malocclusion or prognathism. The lower jaw is often bigger than the upper jaw and/or the chin is farther forward in the face. The classic underbite cartoon character for those who remember him is Dick Tracy. An underbite may be visible or described as a ‘strong chin’ and the condition may be visible in a profile view due to the chin being too far forward. Sometimes, people with this condition may hold their teeth apart as shown above and this may make the profile changes less noticeable.
What Causes an Underbite?
- Genetics – large lower jaw combined with small or normal – sized teeth
- Genetics – small upper jaw combined with normal or large lower jaw
- Habit – sometimes there really is not an overbite but instead a tendency to push the lower jaw forward. Sometimes people with what we call an end-on-end bite will push the lower jaw forward to get more tooth surfaces together when they bite.
It is interesting to note that individuals of Asian descent have a higher liklihood of having the bite condition known as an underbite or mandibular prognathism than people of other ethnicities.
There are several complications – which may be largely cosmetic in nature – that may arise with having an underbite. Extreme cases can cause facial changes such as an overly pronounced chin, or difficulty chewing, swallowing and speaking. These bite problems can wear down the tooth’s enamel increasing a patient’s chances for developing tooth decay and other oral health issues.
The best way to treat an underbite is to catch it early. If you are concerned about your or your childs bite, it is important to consult with your dentist or an orthodontist to see if treatment can or should be completed to modify this condition. It should be noted that not all underbites require treatment.
Yours for better dental health, Julie Gillis DDS
Restoring Smiles/Restoring Health