Patients with Anterior Open Bites Have Several Treatment Options
A healthy bite is an essential part of oral hygiene. In a healthy bite, the upper teeth fit slightly over the lower teeth, and the molars fit together properly. However, when the teeth don’t line up correctly, the result is a “bad” open bite. (The medical term is malocclusion, which is a fancy way of saying that the teeth aren’t aligned properly.)
Having a healthy bite is important because it:
- Helps with efficiently biting and chewing food
- Promotes clear speech
- Prevents strain on jaw joints (which can contribute to headaches)
- Helps keep teeth clean
- Prevents uneven wear of tooth enamel
- Reduces the risk of broken or cracked teeth
- Decreases the risk of tooth decay or gum disease
Although there are many different types of bite problems (e.g., overbites, crossbites, overjets, underbites), one of the most common yet difficult to fix is an open bite. At Burke & Redford Orthodontists, we offer several options for treating this condition, including braces, Invisalign, and orthodontic appliances. In severe cases, we work with jaw surgeons to correct the problem.
What Is An Open Bite?
An open bite happens when the upper and lower teeth don’t touch, even when the jaw is shut. When it affects the front teeth, this is called an anterior open bite. A posterior open bite happens when there is vertical space between the back molars.
Anterior open bites are the most common. People with this condition often have upper and lower front teeth that slant outward. Left untreated, it can contribute to premature or uneven wear of tooth enamel, gum disease, speech impediments, biting and chewing problems, as well as jaw disorders. They may also make people self-conscious about their smile.
What Causes An Open Bite?
It can be caused by one or more factors, including:
- Skeletal issues. Usually genetic, skeletal problems that cause this condition include jawbones that grow away from each other or simply don’t match up properly.
- Sucking a thumb, pacifier, or foreign object (such as a pen or pencil). These habits are most commonly found in children, and they can cause issues if the practice continues after the permanent teeth grow in.
- Tongue thrusting. Also known as an infantile swallow, tongue thrusting involves pushing the tongue between the upper and lower teeth front teeth when speaking and swallowing. Although fairly common in early childhood, children who don’t outgrow the habit may develop an this problem and speech problems.
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) and arthritis. TMD and arthritis patients can suffer from degenerative changes within the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This can lead to changes in the upper and lower jaw relationship and result in the formation of an open bite.
All children experience open bites when a mix of baby and adult teeth are present. However, the issue usually self-corrects in the majority of children. In addition, most children stop tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, and pacifier use by ages 4 or 5.
However, if issues are present, it is easier to correct them sooner rather than later. This is why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have a check-up with an
Fortunately, there are several options for treating an open bite, including:
- Behavior modification
- Mechanical treatments (such as braces, Invisalign, or appliances)
After a thorough examination, Dr. Burke and Dr. Redford will recommend the best treatment option based on a patient’s age and clinical needs.
If this problem occurs during a child’s transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, behavior modification and ongoing monitoring is often the best option. The the doctors may recommend the use of orthodontic appliances (such as an expander or habit appliances) if it does not work. Braces or Invisalign may be used if the condition persists.
If adult teeth are growing into this pattern that has already been established by baby teeth, the doctors may recommend braces or Invisalign to pull the teeth into alignment. If needed, orthodontic appliances may also be used.
For adults, a combination of braces or Invisalign is the most common treatment option. The older the patient, the more difficult it becomes to correct an open bite. However, open bite teeth alignment can be accomplished in even the most difficult cases.
In severe cases or if other treatment options fail, open bite jaw surgery may be needed. Open bite surgery (also known as orthognathic surgery) repositions the upper jaw to align properly with the lower jaw. Surgery is always a last resort and is usually performed on non-growing (adult) patients whose open bite results from skeletal problems.
Braces and Invisalign Open Bite Treatments
Using braces or Invisalign to treat an open bite involves moving the upper back teeth up, the front teeth down, or a combination of the two. By moving the teeth into the correct position, the bite becomes balanced and the open bite is corrected.
The choice of whether to use braces or Invisalign will depend on the severity of a patient’s oral condition. Invisalign can only be used to treat certain types of open bites. In other cases, braces may be a better treatment option.
The type of braces to be used—metal, ceramic, lingual, or Damon braces—will depend on a patient’s clinical needs and cosmetic considerations. Patients who want to minimize the appearance of their braces will most likely opt for ceramic, lingual, or Damon Clear braces. Our office has experienced great success with correcting open bites using braces. Open bite braces before and after photos show dramatic results. Learning the more technical terms for this problem can be found on Wikipedia if you’d like to read more.
Whether braces or Invisalign are used, the treatment goal is the same—the teeth are gently pushed into the correct position over time. Once treatment is complete, a retainer is used to keep the teeth in the proper place.
Contact Burke & Redford Orthodontists in Temecula or Lake Elsinore by calling our main office at (951) 699-8011, or fill out the Schedule a Consultation form on our website anytime. You can also view more common orthodontic problems on our site. We will schedule a time that works for you to discuss options for treating an open bite.