What Is an Open Bite?

The way your top and bottom teeth fit together is called a “bite.” Your bite functions with all of your teeth touching and working together to help you speak and eat. Sometimes there are problems with your bite that not only change it aesthetically but also disrupt the functionality of your teeth.

There are numerous bite problems that affect your teeth and your smile. A common bite problem is an overbite, which is where the top teeth stick out over the bottom teeth too far. This may sometimes cause the bottom teeth to bite into the roof of the mouth.

Another bite problem is an underbite. Here, the lower jaw sits too far in front of the bottom teeth. Bite problems, such as these, can be corrected with simple orthodontic procedures.

Some bite problems may need more extensive treatment if there is no early intervention before the adult teeth come in. An open bite is one such problem that needs correction. With an upper bite, the front teeth on the top and the bottom teeth don’t touch each other when the mouth closes. These teeth also slightly slant outwards towards the lips.

What Causes an Open Bite?

There are a few reasons why someone might develop an open bite. Sometimes genetics plays a role in the malformation of your bite. A skeletal problem could contribute to a patient having an open bite. When this happens, the jaws might grow apart rather than parallel to each other.

Certain behaviors can create an open bite in some patients. Many children use pacifiers or suck their thumbs as soothing techniques. It is a normal habit; however, sucking an object can alter the alignment of their teeth over time.

Other than a sucking motion, a thrusting motion can cause a similar issue. If a patient pushes their tongue through their teeth when they speak or swallow.

Similarly, conditions like temporomandibular disorder (TMD or TMJ) can create an open bite. TMJ is a condition in which a patient will experience chronic pain in the jaw. Because of the discomfort TMJ causes, patients may rest their tongues between their teeth to readjust their jaw positioning.

How Do Orthodontists Treat an Open Bite?

The treatment for an open bite depends on the patient’s age and the cause of their bite problem. If the orthodontist catches the bite problem soon enough, behavior modification can fix the issue.

For example, a young child who still has their baby teeth can stop sucking their thumb or a pacifier. The bite problem can then fix itself. Speech or physical therapy can also change the bite problem if tongue thrusting is an issue.

Unfortunately, if the open bite is not fixed before the adult teeth come in, your dentist may recommend stronger options, such as orthodontics or surgery. A dentist will only suggest surgery for severe cases. This surgery may involve plates and screws to realign the jaw properly.