Malocclusion, a condition where the teeth are misaligned, can lead to serious oral health issues. Proper occlusion, a term used by dental specialists, refers to the ideal condition where teeth fit together in the mouth without gaps or crowding. Malocclusion manifests in various forms, including spaces between teeth, teeth crowding, and teeth rotation or twisting. When misalignment occurs, it can lead to dental problems that necessitate teeth alignment to protect the lips and cheeks from being bitten.
While malocclusion is often inherited, certain habits and conditions can also cause changes in the jaw structure. For example, prolonged bottle feeding in childhood or thumb sucking can contribute to malocclusion. This article focuses on one specific type of malocclusion known as an open bite.
What is an Open Bite?
When people mention “open bite,” they typically refer to an anterior open bite. This condition occurs when the front upper and lower teeth slant outward, preventing them from touching when the mouth is closed. An open bite is classified as a type of malocclusion, where the teeth do not align properly when the jaws are closed.
What Causes an Open Bite?
1. Thumb or Pacifier Sucking
Sucking on thumbs, pacifiers, or other foreign objects can strain teeth alignment, leading to an open bite.
2. Tongue Thrusting
When a person speaks or swallows and pushes their tongue between their upper and lower front teeth, gaps between the teeth may develop, contributing to an open bite.
3.Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
TMJ disorders can cause chronic jaw pain, leading individuals to use their tongue to push their teeth apart, thereby creating an open bite.
4. Skeletal Problems
Skeletal open bites occur when the jaws grow apart instead of parallel to each other, often influenced by genetic factors.
5. Poor-Fitting Dental Restorations
Improperly fitted dental crowns or fillings can prevent other teeth from properly closing together, resulting in an open bite.
6. Facial Trauma
Serious facial injuries, like those sustained in car accidents or athletic accidents, can cause broken bones and alter how the teeth bite together, leading to an open bite.
Types of Open Bites:
1.Anterior Open Bite
The most common type of dental open bite is the anterior open bite. In this case, the front upper teeth fail to close properly with the lower front teeth, resulting in visible open space between them. This condition is often self-induced in children who excessively use pacifiers, suck their thumb or finger, or continue using sippy cups past the recommended age.
2. Posterior Open Bite
A posterior open bite is characterized by the failure of the back teeth to make contact during occlusion, creating a gap between them. This condition can significantly impact chewing function and is commonly observed in the premolars and molars. To restore proper function and prevent further complications, corrective treatment is crucial.
3. Dental Open Bite
Dental open bites involve upper and lower teeth not properly biting together or overlapping in some part of the mouth. They can be either anterior or posterior dental open bites.
4. Skeletal Open Bite
In skeletal open bites, the jaws grow apart from each other instead of together. This condition affects a large area of the mouth and is often of genetic origin, making it visible in profile X-rays called “cephalometric” films.
Signs of an Open Bite:
The most apparent sign of an open bite is the inability to fully close the mouth, resulting in the front or back teeth not touching on the top and bottom. Other signs of open bite or malocclusion include:
- Chewing or swallowing difficulties
- Less prominent chin
- Speech problems, such as a lisp
- Improper teeth alignment
- Pain when biting or chewing
- Front teeth protrusion (over-jet)
- Unattractive smile
Treating an Open Bite:
Treatment for open bites depends on the severity and underlying cause. Some common treatment options include:
1. Clear Aligners
Removable clear aligners, like Invisalign, can be used to treat certain types of open bites. Tooth-colored “buttons” are often placed on the teeth to aid in aligner grip.
A high-pull headgear, attached to the upper and backside of the head, can control jaw growth and align teeth when used in conjunction with braces.
3. Growth Modification/Oral Appliances
Early interceptive appliances can correct growth patterns in children, preventing the need for jaw surgery or extensive orthodontic treatment in the future.
4. Vertical Chin Cup
Used to control the growth of the lower face, the vertical chin cup prevents chin’s downward and backward growth, aiding in teeth alignment.
5. Myofunctional Therapy
This therapy retrains the tongue to swallow correctly, enhancing the effectiveness of open bite treatment.
Orthodontic rollers prevent tongue thrusting through the front teeth, which can lead to open bites and over-jet.
7. Jaw Surgery
Severe open bites, particularly skeletal ones, may require jaw surgery to reposition and stabilize the jawbones.
8. Bite Blocks
Bite blocks placed at the back of the lower dentition encourage front teeth to overlap correctly over time.
Timely treatment of malocclusion, including open bites, can be highly effective in children and adults. Early dental intervention in childhood can lead to shorter treatment duration and reduced long-term dental expenses. While treatment for adults may take longer and be more costly, addressing malocclusion early typically results in better outcomes.
1. Does Invisalign work for open bites?
Yes, Invisalign can treat various types of open bites, as it is designed to straighten teeth.
2. Can braces fix an open bite?
Braces are often used to correct open bites, preventing potential jaw and facial problems.
3. Can an open bite be fixed without surgery?
Yes, regular orthodontic interventions like braces or Invisalign can correct open bites. A comprehensive examination, including X-rays or 3D imaging, helps determine the proper treatment.
4. Does an open bite worsen over time?
Untreated orthodontic malocclusions, including open bites, tend to worsen over time, emphasizing the importance of seeking early treatment to prevent further damage and discomfort.