Can Orthodontics Help My Child's Underbite?

According to Boston Children’s Hospital, about 90% of school-age kids have a malocclusion, or a misalignment of their teeth. About 10-15% of these children require treatment for their malocclusion, one type of which is an underbite.

At Millennium Park Orthodontics in Chicago, Howard Spector, DDS, has been using orthodontics to treat underbites in children for years. In this blog, he explains what underbites are and how they can be fixed.

What is an underbite?

In a normal bite pattern, the upper teeth are slightly in front of the lower teeth when biting down. With an underbite, however, the lower teeth stick out in front of the upper teeth.

Underbites in children don’t usually go away. In fact, they often get worse over time. Because of this, underbites need to be corrected. Not only do underbites cause significant cosmetic issues, but they can also cause jaw pain, problems with chewing and eating, challenges with speaking, and more.

The biggest factor in developing an underbite is heredity. If a child has family members who have underbites, they will be more likely to have one, too. Other factors, such as thumb-sucking, pushing their tongue against their teeth, and using a bottle or pacifier for too long, can also play a role, but heredity is the biggest factor. 

How are underbites corrected?

The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that kids see an orthodontist by age 7 so they can get an early start on any treatment that might be necessary. The earlier the treatment begins, the easier, more effective, and less expensive it usually is.

Upper-jaw expander

If an underbite is caught early, the first line of treatment is usually an upper-jaw expander. This wire-frame device goes across the palate of the child’s upper jaw, and the device is expanded on a predetermined schedule until the jaw has expanded enough that the underbite is gone. This process usually takes about a year. The child then wears a retainer to hold the jaw in place.

Braces or Invisalign

Depending on the severity, clear braces, regular braces, or Invisalign® may be used solely or in combination with other treatments to correct underbites. With braces, brackets are bonded to the teeth, and wires that are connected to the brackets move the teeth into the correct positions over time.

Invisalign treatment consists of wearing a number of sets of plastic aligners. The sets — which are each slightly adjusted — are replaced every two weeks or so until the teeth are in the correct positions. 

Surgery

If the underbite is severe, surgery may be needed to correct the alignment of the jaws. Once the jaws are aligned correctly, then other options, such as braces of Invisalign, can be used to complete the job if needed.

If you think your child may be developing an underbite, Dr. Spector can give your child a thorough evaluation and discuss any next steps if needed. To learn more, book an appointment over the phone with Millennium Park Orthodontics today.

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