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Understanding Your Bite: Types and Their Significance

By March 25, 2024No Comments

In the orthodontic world, we use the word “bite” all of the time. In fact, as a certified specialist in orthodontics, I didn’t just stay at a Holiday Inn Express (or take a weekend course there), but did two and a half additional years of training in diagnosing, preventing, and treating malocclusions, or “bad” bites.

But what exactly does it mean? And what are the different types of bites that need correction? That’s what I’ll be covering in this post.

What is Your Bite?

Your bite refers to the way the upper and lower teeth come together. With a normal or ideal bite, the teeth meet comfortably in the front and back and the forces from biting and chewing are properly distributed. If you’re wondering what an ideal bite looks like, I did a whole post on the anatomy of an ideal smile that gets into the specifics, complete with images.

What is Malocclusion (Bad Bite)?

Malocclusion is the technical term for an improper bite. It can be the result of misaligned teeth or due to a discrepancy between the upper and lower jaw. It can be caused by hereditary reasons or environmental reasons (like habits). In extreme cases, some of the upper and lower teeth don’t meet at all or the bite is so closed, the bottom teeth bite into the roof of the mouth.

7 Types of Bites and What They Mean

1. Overbite

What is an overbite?
An overbite, or deep bite, is when the top front teeth cover too much of the bottom teeth when the jaws are closed. While some degree of overbite is necessary, if less than ½ the length of the bottom teeth is visible when you bite down, it’s considered excessive.

Why does an overbite need to be fixed?
If you don’t fix an overbite with braces, Invisalign®, InBrace®, or, in some cases, Phase 1 orthodontic treatment, it can cause excessive enamel wear and soft tissue damage if the bottom teeth bite into the roof of the mouth. Children generally shouldn’t have much wear on their lower front teeth and should have little bumps present on the edges of their teeth.

2. Underbite

What is an underbite?
An underbite is when the lower jaw sits in front of the upper jaw, causing the lower front teeth to bite outside and forward of the top teeth.

Why does an underbite need to be fixed?
An underbite isn’t just an aesthetic concern. If not treated, an underbite can stress the jaw joints and cause difficulty chewing, premature enamel wear, and speech difficulties. For a severe underbite, early interceptive orthodontics is frequently necessary to guide jaw growth and make later treatment easier and more effective. The position of the upper jaw is very important for esthetics, the appearance of youthfulness, and future aging.

3. Crossbite

What is a crossbite?
A crossbite is when one or more of the bottom teeth bite outside of the top teeth. If it involves the teeth in the back of the mouth, it’s known as a posterior crossbite. If the teeth in the front of the mouth are in crossbite, it’s called an anterior crossbite.

Why does a crossbite need to be fixed?
Patients with a crossbite often compensate by shifting their jaw to one side. This can create lopsided jaw growth and permanent changes in the facial structure if not corrected. Other crossbite complications include uneven wear of the enamel, jaw pain and headaches, and difficulty chewing and speaking clearly.

4. Open Bite

What is an open bite?
An open bite is when the upper and lower teeth don’t overlap when the jaws are closed. If the back teeth touch but the front teeth don’t, it’s referred to as an anterior open bite. If the front teeth touch but the back teeth don’t, it’s called a posterior open bite. These types of bites can be related to poor positioning of the jaws or habits.

Why does an open bite need to be fixed?
Open bites interfere with speech and facial development and may cause swallowing problems. Having an open bite also makes it hard to bite into and chew food properly.

5. Overjet

What is overjet?
Not to be confused with an overbite, overjet teeth, sometimes called “buck teeth,” are front teeth that protrude or stick out. It’s not uncommon for patients with overjet teeth to also have a deep bite.

Why do overjet teeth need to be fixed?
Overjet teeth are more likely to be damaged or broken. In fact, if the overbite is more than 3mm, a child is ~2X more likely to injure their front teeth. They can also hamper speech and get in the way of fully closing the lips, which can cause dry mouth and tooth decay.

6. Crowding

What is crowding?
Crowding is when there isn’t enough room in the jaw to accommodate all of the permanent teeth. In an attempt to squeeze in, teeth can overlap, rotate, or shift forward or back. Because certain teeth aren’t where they’re supposed to be, the bite is affected.

Why does crowding need to be fixed?
Crowded, crooked teeth are harder to keep clean, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Crowding can also cause uneven wear of the enamel. Overcrowding can lead to impaction of teeth that don’t have enough room to fit in the arch.

7. Spacing

What is spacing?
Spacing is when there are gaps between the teeth. While it can be due to missing teeth, it can also happen because of undersized teeth or a too-big jaw, or even having an extra tooth that may keep teeth from coming together.

Why does spacing need to be fixed?
In the case of big gaps, they may throw off the bite leading to premature wear and tear of the teeth adjacent to the space. Smaller spaces can act as food traps as well, putting you at risk for tooth decay and gum disease.

Creating Healthy Bites in El Dorado Hills

If you suspect you have a bite problem, schedule a complimentary consultation at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics in El Dorado Hills, CA. During the visit, my team will take diagnostic records and I’ll perform an exam to determine an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment recommendations.

Whether you opt for Invisalign clear aligners, metal braces, clear braces or InBrace, the result will be a beautiful smile and strong, functional bite.

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