Like most bite-related issues, crossbite is quite common and treatable for people of all ages. While having a crossbite may not pose any serious risks to your health, it can lead to other dental complications in the future, and may keep you from feeling fully comfortable with your smile.
There are a variety of crossbite treatment options out there, but the right one for you will depend primarily on the severity of the condition and its underlying cause. In this guide, we’ll discuss what crossbite is, what causes it, and the most effective and affordable ways to correct it.
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What is Crossbite?
Crossbite is a type of misalignment in which some of the teeth in the upper arch sit inside the corresponding teeth in the lower arch, while others sit outside the corresponding teeth. There are many different types of crossbite, each with its own technical name describing its location, nature, and the number of teeth involved.
However, particularly when it comes to corrective treatment, the most important distinction is whether the crossbite is caused by dental or skeletal misalignment, or a combination of both. Dental crossbite refers to a condition where the teeth alone are displaced, while skeletal crossbite refers to a misalignment of the jaw. While both types of crossbite are treatable in adults, there is a wider range of treatment options for crossbites caused by dental misalignment alone.
What Causes Crossbite?
Crossbite is often passed down genetically, but it can also develop in childhood due to particular habits and behaviors. Some types of crossbite are caused by the underdevelopment or overdevelopment of certain bones in the jaw. Others can occur when adult teeth emerge too early or too late, or in response to prolonged pacifier use, thumb sucking, or tongue thrusting in early childhood.
Is It a Medical Issue?
If ignored, crossbite can certainly lead to other dental complications over time. Teeth grinding, gum disease, and tooth decay are all associated risks of leaving a misaligned bite untreated. Crossbite can also cause headaches, neck pain, and jaw disorders like TMJ due to unusual stress on the jaw muscles.
Again, crossbite can take many forms, each with a slightly different set of side effects and associated risks. The best way to determine whether or not your crossbite has caused (or will cause) any medical complications is to consult a dentist.
Top 4 Ways to Correct Crossbite
If you’ve decided as an adult that it’s time to consider corrective treatment, don’t fret! No matter what you’ve heard, it’s possible to treat crossbite at any age, whether it’s caused by a displacement of the jaw or a misalignment of the teeth. In any case, you’ll need to work with a dentist to determine the best treatment method for you.
With all this in mind, let’s discuss the top 4 ways to correct crossbite:
Traditional braces are quite effective at treating many forms of crossbite. In addition to dental correction, braces can also achieve a degree of skeletal realignment when paired with elastics, expanders and other appliances. The main downside of braces is their visibility, since most adults favor treatment options that are less conspicuous. However, if this is not a concern for you, braces are an excellent solution, often working more quickly than other correction methods.
In some cases, tooth extraction may be used in conjunction with braces to help deal with overcrowded teeth. When teeth are removed, this allows the jaw to relax into a more natural position, after which braces can work to move the teeth into alignment. Treatment with braces typically ranges 18-36 months, with costs averaging $5,000-$6,000 (without dental insurance).
Braces + Palatal Expansion
Crossbites caused by a misalignment of the upper and lower jaws may require the use of a palatal expander (typically for about 6 months) before being fitted for braces. A palatal expander is a device used to widen the upper jaw, allowing the upper and lower arches to move into the desired position before braces work to complete the alignment process.
Although it’s been argued that jaw expansion after adolescence can only be achieved through surgery, the truth is that in many cases a palatal expander can work quite effectively for adults.
Known for having pioneered the world’s first clear, removable teeth aligners, Invisalign is another viable treatment option for many cases of adult crossbite. Over the years, this technology has evolved to be able to produce results quite similar to traditional braces.
Just like braces, Invisalign requires in-office dentist visits, and can be fitted with additional dental appliances that specifically target bite issues. But unlike braces, these aligners are much less noticeable, and can be removed to eat, drink, floss, or even go on a date. That said, some treatment plans will utilize Invisalign’s unique SmartForce attachments, which are tiny tooth-colored devices that remain fixed to the front of the teeth for the duration of treatment.
Invisalign ranges in cost from $3,500-$8,000, and generally only takes about one year.
3) Home Teeth Aligners
While Invisalign remains the best-known option for removable teeth aligners, there are many others available today. In the past few years, companies like Smile Direct Club, Candid Co, and Byte have entered the industry to provide simple, affordable treatment options for adults seeking to straighten their teeth or correct spacing and minor bite issues.
These providers’ offerings are similar to Invisalign in that they offer custom, clear removable aligners, but there are a few key differences to note. Unlike Invisalign, treatment through a provider like Smile Direct Club is done completely remotely. While your treatment plan will be designed by a dentist or orthodontist, you’ll never actually visit a dentist’s office.
For this reason, home aligners are limited in their ability to correct bite issues, as there is no way to integrate additional dental appliances into your treatment plan. However, home teeth aligners are significantly less expensive than Invisalign or traditional braces, with an average cost of only $1,800-$2,000. To learn more, we encourage you to read our review of the top 5 home teeth aligners.
4) Crossbite Correction Surgery
Correction surgery is reserved for severe cases of skeletal crossbite, where the misalignment is caused by a significant displacement of the jawbone. Correction surgery should only be considered when palatal expansion and/or dental realignment cannot produce sufficient results.
This is a pretty significant form of surgery. In addition to being quite expensive, it can also take a while to recover from. Fortunately, most cases don’t require surgery, and can be effectively handled using one of the options discussed above. If you have a very severe crossbite, an orthodontist can help you determine if surgery is warranted.
Crossbite can take a variety of forms and characterizations: anterior, posterior; unilateral buccal, bilateral lingual, and so on — but don’t let all the technical jargon intimidate you. In reality, crossbite is very common, and no matter what type you have, corrective treatment is totally possible. We encourage you to consult a dentist to gain a better understanding of your particular condition and determine the best treatment plan for you.