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Your upper and lower teeth are meant to fit together gently and easily, with your upper front teeth just in front of the lower. But as many of us know from experience, it doesn’t always work out that way. Genetics and other factors can cause our teeth to get out of alignment. The good news is that family dentists are catching bite problems in children at younger ages. There are also more options than ever for adults who have overlooked needed bite adjustments and want to tackle them later in life.
What Does My Dentist Mean When He Talks About Bite?
Bite is the way your upper and lower teeth come together–the way your front teeth meet and the way your molars connect when you chew. When your bite is irregular, it’s called malocclusion. Braces are one of the most common ways of fixing a misaligned bite, but clear aligners are increasingly popular for adults and teens.
What Are Common Bite Problems?
When your upper and lower teeth don’t fit together as they should, it creates problems. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, some of the most common bite problems include:
- Crossbite: when the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth and some of the top teeth rest behind the bottom.
- Underbite: when the lower jaw sits in front of the upper jaw, causing lower teeth to sit in front of upper teeth.
- Deep bite: when you bite down, your upper front teeth cover your bottom teeth too much.
- Crowding: when there’s not enough space in your jaw for your teeth, your teeth may overlap or rotate in problematic ways.
- Spacing: when there’s too much space between your teeth.
- Protrusion: when your front teeth stick out because of jaw development or the way your front teeth have grown in. We used to call this bite problem “buck teeth,” and it’s often associated with a deep bite.
How Can I Tell If My Bite Is Irregular?
Ideally, your upper front teeth should rest slightly in front of your lower teeth. Your molars should mesh together at the grooves. Appearance is one of the warning signs of alignment problems: your dentist can often identify issues by looking at how teeth fit together as adult teeth come in. Other warning signs of malocclusion include:
- Pain and tension in your jaw
- Trouble biting and chewing
- Chipped teeth
- Biting or nicking your tongue
- Speech problems
What Happens If My Bite Is Out of Alignment?
Our first thought is often the cosmetic side of bite misalignment. We know that how our teeth look has a significant impact on self-confidence. However, there are also oral health concerns associated with malocclusion:
- Chipped teeth are caused by upper and lower teeth hitting each other.
- Breakage is caused by protruding teeth.
- Problems with jaw development or tension and pain in the jaw.
- Problems with swallowing or speech.
- Crowding can make teeth harder to clean and lead to decay and cavities.
How Can I Correct Bite Misalignment– And Is It Worth It?
In many cases, adults may have bite problems that are overlooked or untreated for decades. Orthodontic care was less common when many of us were young, and many families viewed braces as a luxury. Bite alignment for adults is growing by leaps and bounds as adults get their bites straightened for oral health and cosmetic reasons. According to the AAO, one in five orthodontic patients is now an adult.
Braces are still the most common approach for younger patients and require treatment by an orthodontist. In many cases, a child’s family dentist will initially spot the problem during a routine checkup and refer the patient to a specialist.
For adults and teens, clear aligners like Invisalign are an increasingly popular option. They’re convenient and discreet, and your family dentist can take care of treatment right in his office.
Your dentist starts with X-rays and impressions and develops a custom-designed treatment plan. He’ll use the gradual treatment plan to order a series of aligners that gradually shift your teeth into the desired position. You’ll come into the office every few weeks to check your progress and get a new set of aligners to continue moving toward your goal. Your dentist will fit you for a retainer when your treatment is complete. Many insurance plans now cover Invisalign treatments. Many patients are ready to cover the expense out of pocket, thanks to Invisalign’s ease of use and satisfying results.
Hall Family Dentistry has offered Invisalign for adults and teens for several years. Our team has helped patients young and old correct alignment problems and achieve the smile of their dreams. If you want your bite, or your child’s, evaluated or are ready to tackle a bite problem and have been waiting for the right moment, talk with Dr. Hall and his staff. We’ll walk you through the process step by step and determine the best way to get your bite on track.