Genes play an essential role in the creation of humans since they determine our physical traits – how we appear on the outside – and many other things about us. Parents pass on their traits or characteristics to their offspring through genes, such as eye color, health conditions, blood type, hair type, height, and even how their children might laugh or smile.
From the shape and size to the color and positioning, genes can cause our smiles to differ significantly from person to person, so much so that our oral differences become a defining part of our characters. As demonstrated by celebrities like Madonna, Willem Dafoe, and Steve Buscemi – whose famously crooked smiles have helped cement them in stardom in addition to their talents.
Like the public figures mentioned above, many people can live with their oral differences. However, more severe differences may place individuals at risk of health conditions that require surgical or non-surgical treatments to correct. One of the most inherited orthodontic problems is underbites, which affect between 5-10% of the American population and prompt a range of queries.
And what does an underbite smile look like? Most questions about underbites focus on the aesthetic instead of treatment, leading to many people suffering from an underbite smile being unaware of their treatment options. Whether an underbite is mild, moderate, or severe, it can be corrected using a variety of surgical and non-surgical treatments. In this practical guide, we’ll discuss what an underbite is, the causes, and how to fix it – keep reading to learn more.
What Is An Underbite?
Before we can explain the causes and treatment of an underbite, we must ensure that our readers have a sound understanding of what an underbite is. If you type the word ‘underbite’ into a search engine, millions upon millions of search results will appear. Some of the most common searches you’ll find are: How to smile with an underbite? How to undergo underbite correction without surgery? What does an underbite smile look like? Plus, much more.
Even if you have no comprehensive knowledge about underbites, you’ve probably heard or seen the words underbite and overbite while sitting in your local dentist’s office. Unbeknown to most, underbites and overbites belong to the same family of orthodontic conditions, which is professionally referred to as class three malocclusion. Malocclusion is a common dental problem where the upper rows of teeth do not mirror the lower and vice versa.
An underbite is a form of malocclusion where the lower teeth protrude further than the upper row of teeth giving your smile a crooked, uneven, or misaligned appearance. This misalignment can differ in severity; in some cases, it may not be easy to spot, whereas others might be immediately identifiable. As well as causing aesthetic problems, in severe cases, underbites can cause a variety of health problems if left untreated for too long.
Some of the most common problems that an untreated underbite can cause in individuals are excessive wear on the teeth, difficulty speaking, jaw complications, and difficulties with chewing or biting. These issues should not be taken lightly and require immediate medical attention to prevent them from worsening.
If you have an underbite smile and are concerned, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your dentist at your earliest convenience. Only a trained health professional will be able to advise you further about the severity of your underbite and the treatment options you are suitable for if it requires intervention.
What Kind Of Treatment Can Those With An Underbite Smile Expect?
Some of the worst cases of underbites can cause a range of aesthetic and health-related problems. Although we’ve touched upon some of these throughout this article, we haven’t yet addressed how these can be rectified through underbite treatment.
Fortunately, dental technology has advanced significantly over the past couple of decades. Due to these advancements, there is now a range of surgical and non-surgical options for those looking to correct their underbite smile. Some of the most popular treatment options are as follows:
- Braces – One of the most popular ways of treating misalignment issues, braces are a popular option for correcting underbites. With the help of mental brackets, braces shift teeth into a fixed position by exerting constant pressure on the surface of the teeth but are often feared due to their look and expense.
- Aligners – Another way that underbites can be corrected is by wearing aligners. Aligners are popular among those that desire the result braces provide yet want to avoid the unsightly metal-mouth look. Since aligners are made from high-quality clear plastic, they allow wearers to straighten their teeth discreetly and work similarly to braces. Nowadays, you can even complete this process without visiting a dentist, using at-home aligners kits from companies such as ALIGNERCO. For more information on fixing an underbite, head over to their website, follow their blog or contact a team member directly to discover how their innovative teeth-straightening solutions could help you fix your underbite today.
- Tooth Removal – If your malocclusion is mild or moderate, your dentist may suggest extracting specific teeth to rectify your underbite.
- Jaw Alignment Surgery – If you suffer from severe malocclusion, your dentist may put you forward for jaw alignment surgery, which involves surgically repositioning your top or bottom jaw (or both). It is often used with other teeth-straightening solutions such as braces or aligners.
- Upper Jaw Extenders – For those with a small jaw, an expander is fitted across the palate, which slowly widens the jaw so that the rows of teeth match better.
What Can Cause An Underbite?
In most cases, an underbite is usually present from birth or develops during early childhood due to the physical traits passed on genetically by our parents. However, in some cases, the alignment of our teeth can also be affected by various environmental factors. As our teeth grow in, the upper row of teeth should naturally overlap the bottom by about 2mm. An underbite or overbite is diagnosed when the individual’s teeth overlap more than 2mm.
As we mentioned previously, most underbite cases are hereditary; however, in some rare cases, environmental factors can cause the development of an underbite that cannot be prevented. Some of the most common external environmental factors that cause the creation of underbites are as follows:
- Childhood Habits – Sometimes, habits learned in childhood can cause the creation of an underbite and other misalignment issues such as tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, and prolonged pacifier or bottle usage.
- Illness – Although rare, contracting an infection can cause an underbite to form. Typically, this only happens because of contracting an endocrine condition like endometriosis, Addison’s disease, or chronic fatigue syndrome. These illnesses target your hormone glands and cause issues with how effectively they distribute hormones and other products into your system. An underbite is one of the many consequences of this disturbance.
- Tumors – Tumors can appear anywhere on or inside your body. If an individual is unfortunate enough to develop one on their jawline or inside their mouth, it can cause an underbite to form due to the jaw shifting.
- Injury – Severe injuries to the face or jaw can cause the creation of an underbite. Facial and jaw injuries can be rectified through surgery, but even after the procedure is completed, the jawbones may not fit together correctly, causing an underbite.
- Genetics – Since genetics determine our physical appearance, that our parents pass down if a parent suffers from malocclusion, it’s likely that this will be passed down. Whether the malocclusion is minor or severe, you may be born with uneven teeth, misalignment of the jaw, underbite/overbite, or a cleft lip/palate, which could cause further misalignment issues in the future.
Keep some of the points mentioned above when deciding to have your overbite fixed.