What is an Underbite and How Can it Be Corrected?

underbite, underbite correction, underbite braces, expander, rubber bands | Orthodontics | Chicago Orthodontist | Dr Emilia Taneva

An underbite is a dental condition where the lower teeth sit further than the upper teeth. You may also hear your orthodontist call it a Class III malocclusion. It is also one of the 7 common bite problems in children and adults according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO).

If you’re exploring orthodontic treatment, an underbite may be the reason. Not only this condition affects the look of your smile but it could also be extremely  uncomfortable. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the symptoms of a Class III malocclusion. Then, we’ll explore your options for underbite correction. 

Symptoms of Underbite

The most obvious symptom of an underbite is noticing your misaligned bite. Your bottom jaw might be sticking out or your upper jaw might be small and way behind. You might see your lower teeth protrude further than your upper teeth. But when you have a Class III malocclusion, you may also experience other concerns. You might have pain in your face and/or mouth, headaches and earaches. TMJ, a type of chronic jaw pain, is common with underbite. It may also be hard to bite and chew, and speaking may be challenging. 

With an underbite, people may misread your emotions. This social consequence occurs when jutting lower teeth make you appear upset. Face has a “bull dog” appearance. You may develop chronic bad breath or tooth decay, caused by damaged enamel. And snoring and sleep apnea, as well as other sleep challenges, are possible. 

underbite, underbite correction, underbite braces, expander, rubber bands | Orthodontics | Chicago Orthodontist | Dr Emilia Taneva
Clinically, underbites may appear as: Small upper jaw, Large lower jaw, Combination of both small upper jaw and large lower jaw, Interferences in your bite

What Causes a Class III Malocclusion?

Most often, you inherit an underbite. So, if one of your parents or grandparents had an underbite correction, you may also need treatment. Certain defects such as a cleft lip or palate may also contribute to a Class III malocclusion. Other childhood habits can increase your risk for this condition. If your child sucks his or her finger, or heavily uses a pacifier, that could contribute to underbite risk. Extended bottle use could also contribute to an underbite.

Injuries that damage your jawbone could also leave you with an underbite. Finally, missing or supernumerary teeth, a soft tissue or jaw tumor could also misalign your teeth and leave you with an underbite.

Underbite | Underbite Correction | Teeth Genetics | Genetics and Teeth | Poor teeth genetics | Tooth Decay | Missing teeth | Gum Disease | Orthodontics | Orthodontist | Dr. Emilia Taneva | Bubbly Moments
Skeletal Class III malocclusion (underbite) is believed to originate from genetic and/or environmental factors.

Underbite Correction With Your Chicago Orthodontist

While an underbite is serious, we can treat it with orthodontics. In fact, we can still offer underbite correction for adults. And, when it comes to correcting your underbite, you’ve even got several treatment options.

  • 1. Braces. If you have a minor Class III malocclusion, we may be able to correct it only with braces. If you choose underbite braces, you might need to add rubber bands to your treatment. This will help pull your lower teeth back into alignment. Sometimes, removing some lower teeth might be necessary to improve your results. This is especially true if crowding is making your underbite worse.

    For mild cases, underbite braces can also work in combination with cosmetic treatments. To make your underbite less obvious, we could fit you with veneers for your upper teeth. But only choose this restorative option if you have no other underbite symptoms. Because it’s only a visual treatment, and won’t correct any jaw misalignment issues.

  • 2. Younger patients can also wear a Face Mask (also referred to as a protraction facemask, orthopedic facemask, or reverse-pull headgear). This Class III correction device looks a lot like headgear. The facemask pulls out the upper jaw (maxilla) in growing patients to match its growth with that of the lower jaw (mandible). Patients connect rubber bands from the face mask to the upper back teeth to bring the upper jaw forward and downward.

    Early use of facemask therapy could effectively reduce the skeletal discrepancy and simplify orthodontic treatment later on.

  • 3. A Palatal Expander for your upper jaw. With this treatment, we fit your palate with a wire-frame expander. A key may be used to slightly widen the expander. Over time, your expander will widen the upper jaw. After about three months to a year in an expander, most patients see results.

    After your expander, your upper back teeth should overlap your lower back ones. Keep in mind, we typically recommend this underbite correction for children and pre-teens. And remember: after we remove the expander, your child might still need to wear braces and rubber bands, followed by a retainer.

underbite, underbite correction, underbite braces, expander, rubber bands | Orthodontics | Chicago Orthodontist | Dr Emilia Taneva
  • 4. Orthognathic Surgery for Underbite Correction. This option is usually reserved for severe skeletal discrepancies and for adults with underbites. During surgery, your lower jaw would be reshaped, shorten, and brought back. Or, your upper jaw would be lengthen, widened, and brought forward to cover your lower teeth. Sometimes, a combination of upper and lower jaw surgery is required. You would need wires, screws and plates to keep your jawbone in alignment. Also, because this is a surgery, it comes with other risks. These include discomfort, recovery period, swelling, lip numbness, possible infection and/or scarring. Those types of surgical corrections requires patients to go under general anesthesia.

underbite, underbite correction, underbite braces, expander, rubber bands | Orthodontics | Chicago Orthodontist | Dr Emilia Taneva
Skeletal Class III Malocclusion (Underbite). Before and After Orthodontic Treatment with Braces and Orthognathic Surgery. Patient treated by Dr. Emilia Taneva 

Choosing the Best Underbite Treatment

Choosing the right underbite correction depends on your age and severity of symptoms. I know it can be hard to know what’s best, but always remember that you aren’t alone in this decision. 

If you’re dealing with a Class III malocclusion, go see your orthodontist right away. Together, you can review your individual symptoms and treatment options. And, as always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have. Whether it’s about underbite correction or other orthodontic treatments, I’m here to help. 

Have you ever had an underbite? Which type of treatment was the right choice for you?
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One Comment

  1. Intan December 30, 2021 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    Ugh, I had an underbite before I had braces, and I had to live with the rubber bands in my mouth for months. It was incredibly uncomfortable and snapped often! But will definitely recommend it though, cos I went from not being able to bite into my apples to chomping away now!

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