An overbite or underbite can be quite a cosmetic disaster. Even though we value aesthetics tremendously, aesthetics are not the only impact that an overbite or underbite can have on a person.
Over time, the overbite or underbite can have long-lasting dental ramifications, as well as effects on adjacent jaw structures and function. Outside of dental repercussions on the jaw structures, there can also be psychological consequences, that go along with having a severe overbite or underbite.
What are the Effects of an Overbite or Underbite?
The most apparent effects of an overbite or underbite, outside of aesthetics, are usually seen in dental side effects. These effects include soft tissue trauma, lack of space between the teeth, and tooth wear. While in minor cases of overbite and underbite, these dental effects are sometimes unnoticeable, however, when the bite discrepancy is more severe, the effects can be more pronounced. The more pronounced the discrepancy, the more pronounced the effects can be. These dental side effects are due to the excessive overlap of the upper and lower incisors and are not seen in a dentition that bites as a normal dentition would. Although these effects may seem small to the everyday person, over a long period of time, they can have very detrimental effects. The lesser known effects of an overbite or underbite can be quite damaging. These include chronic jaw joint (TMJ) pain, chronic mouth breathing, and even cases of sleep apnea.
How is an Overbite or Underbite Fixed?
Some of these discrepancies can be fixed with orthodontics, or braces, alone. In fact, most cases of malalignment can be fixed with orthodontics. In other, more serious cases, a more advanced approach to the situation should be taken. In these situations, surgical intervention may need to be made. This surgery is called orthognathic surgery.
If surgical intervention is needed, there is a multi-specialty approach. This approach will include your orthodontist, your oral surgeon, and on many occasions, your general dentist. The first step in treatment on how to fix an underbite or overbite will be to get your teeth in the proper position for the surgery by using braces. This is where your orthodontist and your oral surgeon will plan your treatment together to get your teeth in the exact position desired.
Once your orthodontist has your teeth in the exact position desired for surgery, the surgical team can plan the surgery for movement of the jaws. In some surgeries, only one jaw will be moved. In other surgeries, both of your jaws will need to be moved. This depends on the magnitude of the discrepancy that needs to be fixed.
Once the jaw is moved, it will need to be secured into place with screws or plates, and in some cases, the jaws may need to be wired shut for a period of time.
What Happens After the Surgery?
After your surgery is completed, you will have a period of healing, as with any other surgery. Your discomfort will be managed appropriately, depending on the exact type of surgery you have performed. This will be much like any other surgical procedure that you may have had in the past. Your discomfort and swelling will be managed with anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and potentially narcotics. In addition to this, you may also have to use ice, stick to a soft diet, refrain from tobacco, and various other particulars as directed by your surgeon.
After this healing period, and you have post-operative appointments with your oral surgeon, you will be cleared to go back to your orthodontist. The orthodontist, at this point, will then continue moving your teeth into their final positions. Depending on the severity of your case, this could take as little as a few months, but expect for this treatment time to last much longer if necessary.
What Happens After Orthodontics?
Once your orthodontist determines that you are finished with the movement of the teeth, he or she will determine if you need to be in retention. Retention is what we all know as retainers. Retainers may be permanently attached to your teeth or removable ones that you wear only at certain times, such as at night.
Sometimes, the combined work of the oral surgeon and the orthodontist just aren’t quite enough to get your smile perfect. This is when you will be referred back to your restorative, or general, dentist. Your general dentist may use veneers, crowns, or fillings to make your smile perfect. You have gone through this much already, you might as well cross the finish line!
If you think you may be a candidate for corrective jaw surgery, or have already been told that you need corrective jaw surgery, you may not know where to go next. Do you go to your orthodontist? Do you go to your general dentist? Do you go to an oral surgeon? It depends on who told you that you need the surgery. If you are confused about where to turn next, we can help you at Arkansas Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. One does well what one does often, and we do this often!