An underbite, also called a Class III malocclusion or prognathism, is a condition in which the lower teeth and jaw protrude in front of the upper teeth. Normally, the upper teeth cover the bottom teeth slightly, but in the case of prognathism, the situation is reversed, leading the sufferer to have a somewhat unnatural appearance.
What Causes an Underbite?
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, heredity plays a key role in the formation of an underbite. Did you or one of your parents have an underbite? If so, the chances are greater that your child might develop one as well.
Apart from genetics, other common causes of underbites in children include thumb sucking, constant thrusting of the tongue against the teeth and extended use of a pacifier or bottle. Because underbites can inhibit chewing and cause strain in the teeth and jaw muscles, treating them as soon as possible is recommended.
How Can You Fix an Underbite?
Fixing an underbite usually involves employing the services of an orthodontist. After examining your child's mouth, the orthodontist may prescribe one of the following remedies:
- Braces: The most common way to correct an underbite is through braces. If your child is self-conscious about how he will look with metal braces, he can choose clear braces, which are less noticeable than their all-metal counterparts.
- Appliances: Special appliances can be custom-made for your child's mouth; these include expanders, retainers and headgear. Since these are usually less comfortable and more noticeable, they should be used only when absolutely necessary.
- Surgery: Occasionally, an underbite can be so severe that surgery is required to fix it. This should be considered only as a last resort.
Most underbites are easy to treat. If your child has one, consult your dentist to discuss treatment options.