Underbite is a fairly common dental condition that affects millions of adults in the United States. Many people with underbite forego treatment because they think it is too expensive, or are simply unaware of their treatment options. In fact, adult underbite can be corrected, whether the case is mild, moderate or severe.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what underbite is, what causes it, and the most effective and affordable ways to correct it.
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What is Underbite?
Underbite, also known as “prognathism” in the dental community, is a type of misalignment in which the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth. Most underbites are mild to moderate, where the lower teeth either directly align with the upper teeth or overlap slightly.
Some severe underbites, where the lower teeth and jaw extend far beyond the upper teeth, require surgery to correct. However, mild to moderate underbites can generally be corrected with standard orthodontics such as braces or invisible aligners. It is seldom medically necessary to correct an underbite, but many folks seek treatment for the sake of feeling more comfortable with their smile.
What Causes Underbite?
In the vast majority of cases, underbite is either present at birth due to genetics, or develops in early childhood. Childhood habits such as thumb sucking or pushing on the teeth with the tongue can contribute to underbite. Very rarely, underbite can also develop in adulthood due to a medical condition such as gigantism or acromegaly. This is extremely uncommon, and there’s no reason to worry you may have a medical disorder just because you have an underbite.
Is It a Medical Issue?
It depends. Most underbites do not pose serious health risks, but even mild cases can result in additional wear on your teeth’s enamel. Severe cases, where the lower teeth and jaw extend far beyond the upper teeth, can cause physical discomfort and issues such as jaw pain, difficulty eating, difficulty speaking, and even bacterial infections.
Again, in the majority of cases, there is no reason to worry about severe medical complications. The best way to determine whether or not an underbite requires correction for medical purposes is to seek the advice of a dental professional.
Top 4 Ways to Correct Underbite
You may have heard about jaw expanders, chin caps, and other bite-correction products that tend to be prescribed to children (before the jaw is fully formed). However, there are also a variety of effective correction options for adults.
As with most medical and cosmetic procedures, the best treatment will depend on the severity of your condition. With this in mind, let’s discuss a few of the best methods for underbite correction:
Traditional braces are typically very effective at correcting underbite, as they can easily be paired with elastics and headgear in order to achieve jaw realignment. 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).
Known for having pioneered the world’s first clear, removable teeth aligners, Invisalign is another viable treatment option for the majority of adults with underbites. Over the years, Invisalign treatment has evolved to be able to produce results quite similar to traditional braces. Just like braces, Invisalign requires in-office dental visits, and can be paired with additional features such as elastics to help correct bite issues.
Invisalign patients are given a series of custom aligner trays designed to gradually move their teeth into the desired position. The first step in this process involves an orthodontist creating a 3D image of your teeth to design the aligner trays. Treatment generally takes about one year, though the condition of your teeth may reduce or lengthen this duration. Treatment costs also vary significantly, ranging from $3,500-$8,000.
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 elastics or other attachments 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) Underbite Correction Surgery
Underbite correction surgery is reserved for severe underbites, where the lower teeth extend well beyond the upper teeth. This procedure can work to lengthen the upper jaw, shorten the lower jaw, or both. In any case, underbite correction surgery is most often used when cosmetic adjustments to the teeth are not enough.
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 of underbite don’t require surgery, and can be effectively handled using one of the options discussed above. If you have a very severe case of underbite, an orthodontist can help you determine if surgery is warranted.
While it’s true that underbite can take a bit longer to correct beyond adolescence, there are still tons of highly effective options for correcting underbite at all stages of life. For mild cases, you may even be able to correct your underbite from home by purchasing clear aligners from an online service like Smile Direct Club.
In any event, you should consult your dentist to determine the best treatment plan for you. We hope this guide provided you with some helpful insight for your future dental endeavors!