Underbite is a common jaw misalignment, but one that might cause you some stress. You may have heard that bite issues are most successfully corrected in children, but if you’re seeking treatment as an adult, there’s plenty of hope. Braces can treat an array of underbites, and you’ve got a few styles to choose from, including options that are way less conspicuous than classic metal brackets.
In this guide, we’ll get into the details of treating underbite with braces, the different braces options you have, and some alternatives if braces aren’t the right fit for you.
Table of Contents
What Is Underbite?
Underbite is a fairly common type of bite misalignment where the lower teeth extend past the upper ones. Although it isn’t a serious medical issue, the condition can cause discomfort and excessive wear on your enamel, leading to more serious issues down the line. Medical concerns aside, though, many people seek underbite correction treatment simply to feel more comfortable with their smile.
Some underbites are so minor you can barely notice them, while others cause the jaw to protrude. Either way, it can cause more than cosmetic concerns. Other symptoms include:
- Jaw pain
- Difficulty chewing
- Speech impediments
- Mouth breathing
- Bad breath
If left untreated, an underbite can continue to wear down your enamel unevenly, eventually causing tooth decay, gum disease, temporomandibular disorders (TMD), and even tooth loss. In some cases, it might even cause sleep apnea.
What Causes Underbite?
Since your genetic makeup determines your tooth and jaw size, it can also cause underbite. If you’re born with irregularly sized jaws or teeth that come in crooked, your lower jaw might begin to protrude as you grow. But certain habits are culprits too. Children who suck their thumbs, thrust their tongues against their teeth, or use pacifiers and bottles past age three are at risk of developing an underbite, as are people who chew their nails or objects like pens excessively.
Jaw injuries are another possible cause. For example, if you break your lower jaw, it might not fit together with the upper jaw properly after it’s healed.
Can Braces Fix Underbite?
The short answer: yes. Their sturdiness and durability have earned them a reputation as an extremely effective option. Plus, they can incorporate appliances like elastics and expanders to increase their power and the complexity of their tooth and jaw shifts. In some cases, treatment may also be supplemented with tooth extraction, as overcrowded teeth can interfere with underbite correction.
For these reasons, braces can work wonders for correcting underbite — especially if the case is mild or moderate. However, if your underbite is severe and you’re seeking a radical transformation of your facial appearance, braces may not be able to deliver. But if you’re set on avoiding jaw surgery, braces can still make a massive difference in your bite and your facial profile.
Types of Braces
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to alter your smile, traditional metal braces were pretty much the only option. However, the orthodontic industry has come a long way in the past couple of decades. Now, you have a whole range of options to choose from. Here are the four main types of braces available today.
Traditional Metal Braces
The end result of a long history of innovation in orthodontia, metal braces in their present form came onto the scene around the mid-1970s. In the decades since, traditional braces have remained orthodontists’ go-to treatment for crafting beautiful smiles.
Though many adults today opt for more discreet straightening appliances — like clear aligners — standard metal braces still have a lot going for them. Treating patients with standard braces doesn’t require an orthodontist to obtain any extra training or purchase special equipment, and those savings mean they can often offer lower prices. Plus, it’s often easier to find an orthodontist who can confidently administer your treatment, as orthodontists typically have the most experience working with metal braces.
Standard braces are also extremely versatile, and better suited for treating complex bite issues than some newer dental technologies. The average cost for braces ranges from $3,000 to $7,000, and treatment typically lasts 12–30 months. Since underbite correction is typically more involved than standard teeth straightening, your treatment will likely fall on the higher side of that range, both in terms of cost and duration — but it depends on the severity of your underbite.
3M — the company behind Scotch tape and Post-Its — introduced the earliest clear braces in 1987. While early models were less effective at adjusting teeth, the technology has come a long way in the past 30+ years. Today, clear braces can match the power of their metal counterparts.
Clear braces work just like metal ones, but offer a sleeker aesthetic that many adults prefer, since the translucent ceramic brackets blend in with the teeth. Although clear braces typically incorporate a metal arch wire, and the brackets are often slightly larger, they’re still less noticeable than metal braces. Some people also find that the ceramic brackets are less sharp and abrasive on the cheeks and gums.
On the downside, not all orthodontists offer clear braces, so it could be difficult to find a provider. Clear braces are also typically around 10%–20% more expensive than metal ones. That said, they have approximately the same treatment duration (12–30 months), and are widely considered effective in correcting mild-to-moderate cases of underbite.
Unlike clear braces, lingual braces are totally hidden from the rest of the world, since they’re situated behind your teeth instead of in front. You may be thinking, “that’s brilliant, how is this the first I’m hearing of it?” Well, there are a few reasons lingual braces aren’t more popular.
First of all, most orthodontists don’t offer them, since they’re harder to affix and adjust, and they require specialized training and equipment. From the patient perspective, lingual braces can create discomfort around the tongue, which can give you a minor lisp. Maintaining good oral hygiene takes more effort as well, because it’s harder to brush and floss around the brackets.
All that said, lingual braces are generally considered just as effective as standard braces for correcting underbite. Given the extra work involved, this option is usually pretty expensive, often costing between $8,000 and $10,000. If your top priority is keeping your treatment completely invisible and you have the financial means to afford it, lingual braces may be the right choice for you.
Six Month Smiles
Six Month Smiles is a unique brand of clear braces and aligners that doesn’t require an orthodontist, just a standard family dentist. As the brand name implies, the average treatment plan is around six months, but that’s because they’re only viable for milder cases. Their clear brackets and tooth-colored wires make them one of the least noticeable braces options available.
Given their shorter average timeframe, some Six Month Smiles providers say they’re primarily focused on shifting the front teeth. That said, they’ve still delivered realignments for many folks with mild underbites.
Six Month Smiles is less expensive than other types of braces, averaging between $3,500 and $5,000. If you have a mild underbite that affects only your front teeth, Six Month Smiles may be a viable option. Just keep in mind that your treatment may take longer than six months (since bite issues are more difficult to correct) and land on the higher end of the price range above.
What Is It Like to Wear Braces as an Adult?
Regardless of your age or the type of braces you choose, braces can certainly cause some discomfort, especially as your teeth adjust to initial placement and periodic tightening.
To minimize pain and reduce the risk of breaking a bracket, you’ll need to stay away from particularly hard or sticky foods — like chips, taffy or hard candy — as well as habits like nail-biting and gum-chewing. It’s also important to maintain good oral hygiene and use all dental appliances as instructed.
You may perceive some added stigma around getting braces as an adult, but the truth is, it’s a very common treatment at any age. Plus, between ceramic braces, lingual braces, and alternatives like clear aligners, there are more ways than ever to adjust your smile discreetly.
In the end, if underbite correction treatment is something you’re pursuing for the sake of your own comfort and happiness, it should be easy to remember that the long-term payoff will be well worth the temporary discomfort!
Underbite Treatment Alternatives
While braces are a fantastic option for treating most cases of adult underbite, some people don’t love the idea of wearing braces, or are put off by the price. If that sounds like you, there are a couple of other unobtrusive treatment options available.
In-Office Clear Aligners
When Invisalign was founded in 1997, it started the clear aligner revolution. This treatment uses a series of customized plastic trays to make incremental dental shifts, correcting crowding, spacing, and bite misalignments like underbite. To address more severe issues, doctors might pair the trays with elastics, expanders, or other appliances and procedures. Unlike braces, Invisalign and their competitors are available to standard dentists, not just orthodontists — so you can potentially get your teeth straightened by the same person who cleans them.
The most notable differences between clear aligners and braces is that clear aligners are 1) removable, and 2) much more discreet. Clear aligner trays can shift your teeth and realign your bite about just as quickly as braces, and for approximately the same price ($3,500–$8,000). However, Invisalign isn’t the only option. ClearCorrect, 3M Clarity Aligners, and SureSmile are among several quality alternatives.
If you’re interested, learn more about some of the top brands in our guide to the six best clear aligners.
At-Home Clear Aligners
In recent years, companies like SmileDirectClub and Byte have taken the Invisalign model and made it cheaper and more convenient. These companies cut out office visits completely, instead using remote dental teams to analyze your teeth and create your aligners, which they deliver straight to your door. However, without any in-person supervision, these services can only treat mild-to-moderate conditions, and some cases of underbite are too complex for them.
Home aligners are significantly less expensive than braces or Invisalign, with an average price of $1,800–$2,000. The companies that sell home aligners typically provide an opportunity to review your expected results before purchasing a full course of treatment, so you’ll know exactly what to expect before moving forward. But if everything lines up, home teeth alignment might be a perfect solution for your mild underbite.
If you think at-home aligners might work for your underbite, check out our recommendations for the top five brands.
Beyond Standard Treatment Options
Corrective jaw surgery is reserved for cases of severe underbite in which the patient is seeking a radical transformation of the face and jaw. This procedure can deliver significant adjustments of your bite and facial structure by moving the top jaw, bottom jaw, or both. In any case, corrective surgery is most often used when standard treatment options are unable to produce sufficient results.
This is a pretty significant form of surgery. Besides being quite expensive, it also comes with a long recovery. Fortunately, most cases of underbite don’t require surgical intervention, and respond well to the options discussed above. If you have a very severe underbite, an orthodontist can help you determine if surgery is warranted.
Regardless of the severity or cause of your underbite, your dentist may recommend braces, and for good reason: this long-standing dental technology can produce powerful and sustainable dental transformations. If you’re considering corrective treatment, choose a physician who’s dedicated to finding a treatment option that reflects your top priorities — whether they’re aesthetic, budgetary, time-sensitive, or otherwise.
Remember, underbite is rarely a medical concern, so consider your personal desires and holistic well-being when choosing a corrective treatment. We hope this guide provided you with some helpful insight for your future dental decisions!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get rid of an underbite?
Yes! Underbite is a common and treatable condition. Many dentists will recommend braces or other orthodontic treatments, but more severe cases might require surgery. Regardless, if you have an underbite, there should be a solution.
What causes underbites?
Underbites have several possible causes. Genetics can play a role, like if you were born with irregularly sized jaws or teeth that come in crooked. However, habits like excessive nail-biting, tongue thrusting, or chewing on objects like pens can cause it as well. Children who suck their thumbs or use pacifiers past age three are also at risk.
What happens if you don’t fix an underbite?
An underbite can cause your enamel to wear down unevenly, and over time, that can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and temporomandibular disorders (TMD). An untreated underbite can also cause sleep apnea and chronic jaw pain.
How do I know if my underbite is severe?
A severe underbite is when your lower teeth protrude so far forward they appear to overlap your upper ones. This may cause jaw pain, difficulty chewing or speaking, headaches, or a chin that sticks out. However, both mild and severe underbites can affect your overall oral health, so it’s best to get either type treated.
Do underbites change your face?
Not always, but they can. If you have one — particularly a severe case — your lower jaw might jut out or your face might look asymmetrical.
What age is best to correct underbite?
Childhood is best, if possible, since the underbite could affect how the child’s jaws grow and develop. Treating it early allows the permanent teeth to descend in an ideal environment, reducing the risk of misalignments later on. But that doesn’t mean adults can’t get an underbite fixed. Ask your dentist about your options as soon as you notice symptoms of an underbite.
What’s the best treatment for an underbite?
It depends entirely on your unique case. Mild underbites often respond well to orthodontic treatments like braces or clear aligners, while more severe ones might require surgical intervention.
How long does it take to fix an underbite?
It depends on the severity of your case, but it often takes braces or Invisalign 12–30 months to fix a crossbite. However, your treatment might fall outside that range. The milder your case, the shorter your timeline usually is.