Most people understand why they should straighten their teeth – straight teeth are better-looking, they provide a more esthetic smile, and are more conducive to hygiene and dental health. Less understood, though, is why it is important to have a proper bite.
The reason that most people are not concerned about their bite is that it has never bothered them in the past – they are not in pain and have no difficulty chewing. So when an orthodontist tells them that they need their bite corrected, they wonder why it is necessary, and whether it would not be faster and cheaper to just straighten their 6 front teeth. Frankly, there are products on the market (such as Smile Direct and 6 Month Smiles) designed to do exactly that. But these products are very dangerous and are not offered by most orthodontists – because your bite matters, even if you’re not aware of it!
An improper bite is unlikely to cause acute pain, but is very likely to cause long-term problems to the teeth and gums, and possibly the jaw joints.
Here is a short list of some common bite problems and how they can affect your dental health:
Overbite (where the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth too far vertically)
- Leads to chipping/damage to the edges of the teeth
- Can wear away the backs of the upper teeth making them prone to fracture
- Can lead to gum recession and periodontal bone loss
Overjet (where the upper teeth protrude too far ahead of the lower teeth)
- People with overjet are far more likely than average to injure their upper front teeth, and any injuries to the teeth are more traumatic than usual, often leading to tooth loss or need for root canals
- Can also lead to speech problems such as lisps
- Can lead to damage to the gums behind the upper front teeth
Underbite (Where the lower teeth bite in front of the upper teeth)
- Can lead to chipping/wear of the teeth
- Can lead to jaw pain (TMJ disorders)
- Can lead to speech problems such as difficulties pronouncing fricative letters (such as “f” of “v”)
What are the benefits of having a good bite?
Having a good bite maximizes the chance of your teeth, gums, and jaw joints remaining healthy for your lifetime. It also will provide you with the most esthetic smile possible. It can even improve the appearance of your face, both from the front and side views.
Straightening the teeth without correcting the bite is a bit like painting a damaged wall without fixing the sub-structure. It will look okay for a while, but eventually problems will occur.
How do orthodontists correct bites?
Orthodontists train for 3 years beyond dental school, specifically learning how to correct bites. We can often correct bite problems with braces or invisalign, using techniques that most general dentists lack the training to perform.
Occasionally we need to augment the treatment to obtain proper bite correction. Sometimes it is necessary to have patients wear elastics, stretching from the upper teeth to the lower teeth to guide them to a correct bite.
Less commonly, it may be necessary to extract teeth, or in rare circumstances perform surgery on the jaw. Having said this, most patients do not need such invasive treatments, and we only recommend them in cases where the benefits truly outweigh the risks.
One of the most crucial steps in the orthodontic process is formulating a treatment plan that takes both the alignment of your teeth and your bite into consideration. It is only by correcting both of these things that we can obtain the best results for your smile and dental health.