The Ideal Bite
In the ideal bite, the teeth are all well-aligned with upper teeth just slightly overlapping the lower teeth all around the U-shape of the mouth. Studies, however, estimate that some 70% of people have at least mild orthodontic problems, whether crooked teeth or misaligned bites. Most people associate orthodontics with straightening out crooked teeth, but there is actually much more to orthodontics than meets the eye! Though straight teeth are certainly a goal of many treatments we do here at Sherman & Balhoff Orthodontics, we also focus on positioning the jaw, bite patterns, and spacing of teeth. There are actually many health issues related to the teeth and jaw position that most people are unaware of. Problems with breathing, chewing, and speaking are often tied to orthodontics and can be fixed at an early age before they progress into more problematic issues. Read on to learn more about the most common orthodontic issues we deal with at our practice.
In orthodontics, the term bite is used to define how the upper and lower teeth fit together. A normal bite will consist of the upper teeth sitting slightly over the lower teeth, with the points and grooves of opposite molars fitting snug together. There are a number of ways that someone can have a misaligned bite, and each comes with its own possible health issues.
- An underbite occurs when the lower jaw sits further out than the upper jaw, leading to a “bulldog” appearance, stress on jaw joints, and wear and tear on teeth.
- Crossbites occur when the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth. A crossbite can affect single teeth or groups of teeth, such as only back teeth or only front teeth. Some crossbites occur as a result of misaligned teeth, but others are actually due to misaligned bones. Either way, an untreated crossbite can lead to wearing down of tooth enamel, lopsided jaw growth, or jaw shifting.
- An overbite is caused by the top jaw severely overlapping the bottom jaw. This can lead to difficulty chewing, gum damage due to upper teeth biting into gums, or premature enamel wear.
Other Orthodontic Issues
Aside from correcting bite alignment, orthodontics aims to ensure that all teeth have space to grow properly and fit together without crowding. Some issues that we commonly treat are spacing and overcrowding. Spacing is simply too much room between teeth, which is often caused by teeth that are too small, an oversize jaw, or a combination of the two. Problems with spacing can lead to gum disease and cavities if left untreated. Overcrowding is essentially the opposite of spacing. This occurs when there is not sufficient space for teeth to grow.
Overcrowding can be attributed to large teeth, a small jaw, or both. You may notice your teeth are getting crowded if they overlap, rotate, or become staggered. Overcrowding can cause cavities and gum disease since it is difficult to clean between or around the teeth.
We see another common issue, protrusion, or teeth that stick out in the front of the mouth. Front teeth may take on this appearance if the upper jaw is too far forward, the lower jaw is too far back, the teeth grew in at an angle, or a combination of these conditions. It is important to treat this issue because protruding teeth are more prone to accidents and breakage, tooth decay, speech problems, and difficulty closing the mouth comfortably.
The last common issue that we see in our practice is an abnormal eruption. Eruption simply means a tooth breaking through the gums’ surface, but abnormal eruption occurs when a tooth breaks through the gums in the wrong place. This can lead to the tooth being blocked from fully growing in or pain in the gums. Abnormal eruptions can often be fixed with a simple oral surgery.