Orthodontic Update: When Should You Screen For An Overbite?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have an orthodontic screening no later than age 7. By then, enough of the permanent teeth have emerged to identify potential problems.
Don’t wait until all the permanent teeth erupt in the mouth. Starting orthodontic treatment early in life may have many advantages. For example, while children are still growing, expansion devices can be used to widen the palate. This can help teeth come in straighter by providing more space. It also may help to correct the way the top teeth and bottom teeth meet or come together. Such treatment should be done at an early age for best results.
Many people undergo orthodontic treatment during preteen and teenage years. At this time, most of the permanent teeth have come in and treatment can be most effective. About 3 million teenagers in the United States and Canada wear braces. Millions more would benefit from treatment.
An increasing number of adults now have orthodontic treatment as well. However, adult treatment can be more complicated. It may require more than one dental professional to fully correct a problem. For example, adult patients may be more susceptible to gum problems. They will need to take care of these problems before orthodontic treatment can begin. Sometimes they also have jaw alignment problems that require corrective surgery. One of the biggest limitations in adult treatment is that adults are no longer growing.
Types of Bad Bites
An improper bite doesn’t look good. That is the usual reason that people seek treatment from an orthodontist. In addition, an improper bite causes difficulty in chewing. In people with crowded teeth, it can lead to more cavities or gum disease. Treatment of an irregular bite can improve your overall oral health and stabilize your bite.
Incorrect bites are grouped into categories. Common bite problems include:
- Crossbite — Here, the upper teeth rest significantly inside or outside the lower teeth. A crossbite often can make it difficult to bite or chew. It also may cause the jaw to shift to one side as it grows.
- Crowding — Permanent teeth may not have room to move into the right position:
- If there is not enough room for the teeth
- If the teeth are unusually large compared with the size of the dental arch
- If the jaw is narrower than it should be
- Deep overbite — This occurs when the upper front teeth (incisors) overlap too far over the lower teeth. In some cases, the biting edges of the upper teeth touch the lower front gum tissue and the lower front teeth may bite into the roof of the mouth.
- Underbite — A crossbite of the front teeth is commonly referred to as an underbite if the lower teeth are ahead of the upper teeth. This may also be a sign that the jaws are not in the correct position. Sometimes surgery is needed.
- Open bite — If your upper and lower front teeth don’t meet when you bite down, this is called an open bite. This may make it impossible to bite off food with the front teeth. It also can affect speech. Because the front teeth don’t share equally in the biting force, the back teeth may receive too much pressure. This makes chewing less efficient. It can lead to premature wear of the back teeth.
- Spacing problems — Some people have missing teeth or unusually small teeth in a normal sized jaw. This can result in large spaces between the teeth. People who have lost one or multiple teeth may have uneven spacing because adjacent teeth may drift into the unoccupied areas. Braces can be used to shift the position of these teeth so the missing tooth or teeth can be replaced.
Treatment: Braces and Retainers
Everyone has a slightly different bite, so treatment techniques vary. Braces are the most common approach. They help to move the teeth slowly by applying precise amounts of light pressure over a long period of time.
Most orthodontic treatments occur in two phases:
- The active phase — Braces or other appliances are used to move the teeth into proper alignment and correct the bite.
- The retention phase — A retainer is used to hold the teeth in their new positions for the long term.
In addition to braces, orthodontists sometimes use special appliances (called functional appliances) to direct the growth of the jaw in young children. These appliances are rarely used in adults. That’s because they are not effective after growth is complete.