What is a Crossbite? Effects and Treatment

Anterior Crossbite | Posterior Crossbite | Crossbites | What is a Crossbite | Orthodontist | Orthodontics | Chicago Orthodontist | Bubbly Moments | Emilia Taneva

A crossbite often presents during childhood and does not correct itself as the child gets older. There are different kinds of crossbites and they can affect both the front and back teeth, posing possible health risks. No matter the severity, crossbites can cause damage to your teeth from grinding, affect the look of your smile, damage your gums, or affect jaw growth and facial symmetry. Early diagnosis during childhood and correcting the condition as early as possible helps reduce the risk of further complications.

What is a Crossbite?

With a normal bite, your upper teeth should sit and cover the outside of your bottom teeth. A crossbite occurs when some of the upper teeth go inside the bottom teeth. This misalignment can affect your smile, sometimes reducing your self-esteem. It could also cause potential health issues, such as jaw and muscle pain, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), headaches, increase risk for dental decay and gum disease. It can lead to severe teeth grinding and even contribute to abnormal facial development in children. There are two types of crossbites: an anterior crossbite and a posterior crossbite.

Anterior Crossbite | Posterior Crossbite | Crossbites | What is a Crossbite | Orthodontist | Orthodontics | Chicago Orthodontist | Bubbly Moments | Emilia Taneva

Anterior Crossbite

An anterior crossbite occurs when your upper front teeth sit behind your lower front teeth when you bite down. Causes of anterior crossbites can be dental or skeletal. Dental cases typically begin in children with baby teeth or mixed dentition. Delayed eruption of primary upper teeth can lead to lingual movement of the primary lower teeth. Crowding in the maxillary arch can also contribute to anterior crossbites. Missing upper front teeth, supernumerary lower front teeth or premature exfoliation of deciduous upper front teeth are some of the other dental causes for an anterior crossbite.

Skeletal causes of anterior crossbites include mandibular hyperplasia (big lower jaw) and maxillary hypoplasia (small upper jaw). Mandibular hyperplasia is the over-enlargement of the mandible bone while maxillary hypoplasia is the underdevelopment of the maxillary bone.

Anterior Crossbite | Posterior Crossbite | Crossbites | What is a Crossbite | Orthodontist | Orthodontics | Chicago Orthodontist | Bubbly Moments | Emilia Taneva

Posterior Crossbite

With a posterior crossbite, your top back teeth sit inside the bottom back teeth. It is often connected to a narrow maxilla and upper arch. Thumb sucking, prolonged use of a pacifier, or upper airway obstruction are all common causes of a narrow palate and contribute to posterior crossbites. Posterior crossbites are more common than anterior crossbites, affecting up to 23% of the population.

What Happens if You Don’t Treat a Crossbite?

Leaving a crossbite untreated can lead to a variety of different dental and health concerns. These can include:

  • Tooth Decay – A crossbite can affect your dental care and ability to battle tooth decay. This softening of the enamel can lead to tooth destruction, pulp infection, and eventual tooth loss.

  • Gum Disease – Gum disease, or periodontitis, occurs when tartar and plaque remain on the teeth for extended periods of time. Plaque and tartar are loaded with bacteria and this causes inflammation in the gums. Crossbites can contribute to poor oral hygiene, making gum disease a serious concern.

  • Teeth Grinding – Misalignment of your teeth can lead to regular teeth grinding, especially at night. This breaks down the enamel of your teeth, leading to tooth decay.

  • Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD) – The Temporomandibular joints are on each side of your jaw and allow for lower jaw movement. Crossbites can affect the development of this joint, as well as its ability to move freely.
  • Distorted Facial Features – The misalignment of your teeth can affect the appearance and shape of your face. Skeletal abnormalities contributing to the crossbite, such as mandibular hyperplasia or maxillary hypoplasia, can also contribute to abnormal facial structure and asymmetry.

  • Chronic Headaches or Migraines – Stress on the jaw muscles or possible infections can lead to headaches and migraines, as well as severe jaw and neck pain.

Anterior Crossbite | Posterior Crossbite | Crossbites | What is a Crossbite | Orthodontist | Orthodontics | Chicago Orthodontist | Bubbly Moments | Emilia Taneva

Treatment Options for Crossbite

Treatment for an anterior or posterior crossbite should begin as soon as it is diagnosed in children. Orthodontic treatment in children, such as an expander or braces, allows the orthodontist to take advantage of the natural growing process, making crossbite treatment easier. However, treatment options are still available for adults who were not diagnosed and treated on time. Orthodontic treatment options for anterior and posterior crossbites include:

  • Palatal or Maxillary Expander – Palatal or maxillary expanders gradually widen the upper jaw, allowing the upper teeth to line up properly with the lower teeth. The bones in the upper jaw develop as separate halves that do not fuse together until sometime after puberty. A palatal expander used in children allows those bones to separate and stabilize in the correct position. A palatal or maxillary expander is a fixed dental appliance made from two pieces connected with a jackscrew that needs to be open up gradually to increase tension. By expanding the jaw, the orthodontist also creates more room to align the teeth.

  • Removable Expander – Removable expanders work in the same manner as fixed palatal expanders, except they are not attached to the teeth, allowing for removal when eating or brushing.

  • Surgically Assisted Rapid Palatal Expansion (SARPE) – Used when the palate becomes fused or when wider expansion is necessary, surgically assisted rapid palatal expansion is facilitated by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who breaks the upper jaw in several places, moving it into the desired position. After surgery, the patient wears a custom-made appliance to keep the jaw in place and allow for healing.

  • Braces – Braces slowly move the teeth to a desired alignment. For minor crossbites, or a single tooth crossbite, braces are often enough. But more often than not, braces are used to further correct the bite after palatal expansion.

  • Clear Aligners – Similar to braces, clear aligners work to slowly move the teeth to their desired location. Unlike braces, clear aligners are removable and allow for better oral hygiene during treatment. Clear aligners do not work on all crossbite cases, so it will be up to your orthodontist to decide whether you need an expander, braces or aligners to correct the crossbite.

Crossbites are a common dental issue that can lead to a variety of complications if left untreated. Luckily, with early diagnosis, treatment can begin early, reducing the risk of further complications. And, even if you are an adult with an untreated crossbite, it isn’t too late to be treated and give you a beautiful smile. If your dentist diagnoses you with an anterior or posterior crossbite, schedule an orthodontic consultation as soon as possible. Don’t let misaligned teeth keep you from smiling or contribute to poor oral health!

Have You or Any of Children Been Diagnosed With a Crossbite? What Type of Orthodontic Treatment Was Done? Comment Below!


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  1. Christina Gould September 1, 2019 at 7:28 am - Reply

    Wow, what a great presentation. I love the office setting. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Amber Skay April 1, 2020 at 5:36 am - Reply

    I had a severe crossbite. My entire lower jaw was shifted to the right and my face was noticeably crooked. My parents didn’t fix my teeth when I was a kid so my brother paid to fix them when I was an adult. I had braces from 22-25. The ortho wanted to set up the jaw breaker surgery for my crossbite but I thought it sounded horrific and therefore very, very expensive. So I declined and they informed me my crossbite would never be perfect but they could vastly improve it with rubber bands. Basically I kept making an “X” for ages and eventually it all came together. I’m sure my ortho could see how they weren’t exactly perfect but I tell you I remember the moment I realized my face wasn’t crooked any more and nothing else mattered. And I’m telling you I faithfully wore those rubber bands. My brother changed my life when he fixed my teeth and I’m forever grateful

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