An underbite is a type of malocclusion (abnormal bite) where the lower jaw extends upward and further out than the upper teeth. This also protrudes the chin, when the mouth is closed. It is a common occurrence (5 to 10 percent of people) and is often seen in children, but how soon should any action be taken?
Dr. Randy Feldman adds, “This blog title mentions surgery, but that is only one of the methods that orthodontists use to correct an underbite. Surgery is not recommended in children, because their jaws are still growing.” The problem may be corrected in whole or in part by other means. Surgery is an option after the growth spurt of puberty. The optimum age for surgery differs in each case, but generally for girls it is age 15 or 16 and for boys, a little later, at age 18.
Results of Underbites
Besides the aesthetic and self-esteem issues for children and adults with an underbite, there are other problems that create difficulties and physical pain.
- Speech Issues – Sometimes a lisp or other speech problems occur for those with underbites.
- TMJ Pain – The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) which connects the jawbone to the skull has extra pressure and causes aches and pains. Sufferers also can develop headaches.
- Problems with Chewing – A misaligned jaw will create problems in biting, chewing, and ultimately in digestion. The teeth also wear unevenly causing damage which can lead to tooth decay.
- Sleep Apnea – Severe underbites can cause snoring, sleep apnea, and breathing problems during sleep.
Correcting an Underbite in Children
As we mentioned, surgery is not recommended to correcting a child’s underbite. These other methods alone or in combination are what we would offer in our offices.
- Braces – At age seven, your child may be a candidate for braces.
- Upper Jaw Expanders – This mechanical device is fitted to the upper jaw, but helps to move the lower jaw into the proper alignment.
- Chin Caps – A chin cap can be fitted to the chin and connected with straps around the back of the head. These can be worn during sleep and physically limit the growth of the lower jaw.
- Reverse Face Masks – A reverse face mask is also worn externally, and connects to the top row of teeth. The method pulls the upper teeth forward and corrects their position while using opposing pressure on the lower jaw and face structure.
Jaw surgery is used at the proper age only if the non-surgical methods are not effective. Sometimes braces are also required after surgery. Each patient is different and will require a unique plan. Blue Wave is here for you and your family and to correct bites and smiles. Feel free to ask us any questions you may have on our website or social media accounts.