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Types of Underbite Correction Treatments

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Achieving and maintaining a beautiful smile is a worthy goal. A mouth full of perfectly aligned teeth is a great indicator of your general health.

But if you have an orthodontic or facial issue causing your lower teeth to stick out, you might be experiencing problems affecting your overall health and well-being. Lucky for you, treatments abound for people with either misaligned teeth resulting in an underbite or with lower jaw protrusions. Depending on your situation, you can take steps to achieve that beautiful smile.

What Is an Underbite?

An underbite, clinically known as a Class III malocclusion, is when your lower teeth overlap your upper teeth. You or your child might have an underbite ranging from a mild misalignment (your upper and lower rows of teeth almost meet) to an acutely pronounced underbite (your teeth don't meet at all). The latter could be the result of a prognathism, a protrusion of the lower jaw.

Depending on the severity of your underbite, you or your child might experience these issues:

  • Eating difficulties
  • Speaking issues
  • Chronic jaw or joint (TMJ) pain, as well as headaches and earaches
  • Cracked or worn-down teeth
  • Tooth decay from wear of tooth enamel
  • Chronic mouth breathing, halitosis, and bacterial infections
  • Sleep apnea, snoring, and other nighttime breathing difficulties
  • Emotional stress brought on by bullying or by people expressing disapproval of your appearance.
  • Low self-esteem

Underbite Correction Methods

To correct an underbite, you and your dental professional have a few great options. The correction method chosen depends on factors such as the extent of the underbite and you or your child's age. In fact, you can begin correcting a child's underbite as early as possible so your dental professional can more easily manipulate their bones and palate.

Some overbites might require only one of the following correction methods or a combination of methods.

Braces: Whether metal, clear, or "hidden," braces are the most common way to align your bite. Though you or your teenager might need to wear braces for two to three years – and a retainer after the braces come off – this is probably the least expensive, most effective way to fix your underbite.

Reverse-Pull Face Mask: Resembling braces headgear, this mask is designed for children around 10 and younger before their bones fuse. It wraps around a child's head and pulls the upper jaw back into the correct position using metal bands fastened to the upper back teeth. A chin cup typically helps keep the mask in place.

This mask option is highly effective as long as your child wears it as frequently as possible, particularly while sleeping and at home.

Upper Jaw Expander: Your orthodontist will fit this wire-frame device across your palate. Every night, you'll use a special key to widen the expander a tiny amount. The process gradually causes the upper jaw to widen until the lower teeth no longer close against the outside of the uppers.

You'll usually wear the expander for about a year and then replace it with a retainer to promote proper bone growth. Though effective for teens and adults, the expander can work most efficiently in children whose bones are still forming.

Tooth Extraction: If you have too many lower teeth, causing them to protrude, you might fix your underbite by having the extra teeth pulled. This can be a one-off procedure or done in conjunction with other methods.

Surgery: If your underbite is due to your jaw sticking out much further than normal, your dental or medical professional might prescribe one of these surgeries:

  • Orthognathic Jaw Surgery: This correction surgery requires moving your lower jawbone to fix your protruding jaw. In this process, your oral and maxillofacial surgeon separates the bone in the jaw's rear part from the front part and then modifies it. This enables the part of the jaw carrying the lower teeth to be repositioned further back.

This can be an outpatient surgery or require brief hospitalization. Though complete healing might take 9 to 12 months, you can go back to school or work after one to three weeks.

  • Le Fort III Osteotomy: An oral and maxillofacial surgeon moves a person's entire face forward in this procedure. Performed when a person's face appears to have sunk in above the lower jaw, this surgery can greatly modify a person's appearance and functionality. Typical surgery healing times apply.

Cosmetic Approach: In mild cases, non-surgical cosmetic dentistry can reshape the lower teeth and then fit veneers to the uppers. Though it doesn't fix the underbite, it makes it less visible and sufficiently improves the jaw's functionality.

Bite alignment is seldom perfect, especially at a young age, but treatments are available to get your teeth perfectly positioned. Talk the treatments over with your dental and medical professionals. Whether correcting your bite or your jaw placement, you deserve to be fully able to eat, speak, sleep, and smile.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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