A bad bite. No, we’re not talking about a day-old sandwich or a mosquito sting. We’re talking about teeth! Specifically, how your upper jaw and lower jaw come together to form your smile. In a normal bite, teeth fit together with the top teeth slightly overlapping the bottom and the back teeth fitting together like a puzzle. But with a bad bite, your teeth are misaligned.
Chances are, you’ve heard of overbites and underbites. But did you know, there’s actually several kinds of bad bites? Four to be exact: overbite, underbite, crossbite and open bite. On top of that, you might also see other signs of a bad bite, like crooked teeth, crowded or gap teeth or other alignment issues that cause concern.
At Davis Orthodontics, we’re experts in turning bad bites into healthy, straight smiles that last a lifetime. So let’s talk about how you can tell if you have a bad bite versus a normal teeth bite and why it’s important to fix your bite alignment.
Four Different Kinds of Bites
A bad bite, also called malocclusion, can look different from person to person. As we mentioned earlier, there are four kinds of bad bites: overbites, underbites, crossbites and openbites. So what do each of these look like?
With a normal bite, teeth have a slight overbite with the front top teeth sitting over the lower front teeth. But if your molars don’t fit together like a puzzle with your overbite, you might have an overbite that’s considered misaligned. Do your top teeth bite down on your lower gums? Do your top teeth protrude over your bottom teeth? If so, these are signs of a problematic overbite. An overbite can cause tension in your jaw and face muscles, resulting in headaches. It can cause difficulties or discomfort with chewing your food or cause uneven wear on your tooth enamel.
This is when your lower jaw extends past your upper jaw, causing your lower teeth to protrude and sit past your upper teeth. Like the other three bad bites we talk about here, genetics and habits from childhood like prolonged thumbsucking and tongue thrusting can play a role in causing an underbite.
An underbite is less common than an overbite but can lead to the same jaw stress and chewing challenges. You might even experience sleep apnea with an underbite or difficulty with enunciating certain words or sounds.
Unlike an overbite or underbite which describes an entire row of teeth, a crossbite happens to single teeth or a group of them. A crossbite is when upper teeth bite inside your lower teeth and it can happen with back or front teeth. You might have developed a crossbite if your baby teeth didn’t fall out during childhood or if your adult teeth had a delay in erupting. In these cases, your jaw and other teeth respond by developing a crossbite.
There are two kinds of open bites but both look like upper and lower teeth that don’t touch. One kind is when your front top teeth don’t touch or slightly overlap your front bottom teeth like in a normal bite. The second kind of open bite is when your back top and bottom teeth don’t touch each other when your mouth is in a resting position. Some signs of an open bite include:
- A lisp
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Your tongue sits in a different position
- Your teeth are showing irregular wear
In addition to genetics or childhood habits, an open bite can be the result of your jaw growing apart instead of parallel to one another.
Other Kinds of Misaligned Teeth
So we’ve covered what you need to know about bad bites, but it’s also helpful to know about other misalignment issues that can affect your oral health and smile. Crooked teeth, gap teeth and crowding teeth are common issues that we see and treat at our Simpsonville, Spartanburg, Clemson, Anderson, Walhalla, Greenville and Greer offices. When these misalignment issues are corrected, our patients not only feel more confident in their new smiles, but can also enjoy the benefits of healthier teeth and gums.
Sometimes teeth grow in a less-than-ideal direction and when your teeth don’t sit vertically or are twisted, they can affect proper bite alignment. Crooked teeth can impact how effectively you brush and floss and even how well you can chew.
So what causes crooked teeth? Well, genetics can play a big role. So does poor oral hygiene: periodontitis, or severe gum disease, can cause teeth to shift, loosen or fall out. Trauma to your teeth from sports or accidents — a baseball, a fall — can also cause gaps and shifting. An interesting fact? Our teeth naturally move to fill gaps left by teeth that have prematurely fallen out. And when teeth move to fill spaces, they might not shift into a straight position. Crooked teeth can also be caused by poor nutrition, either in childhood or adulthood.
Speaking of childhood, crooked teeth can begin when you’re young. Infant habits like thumbsucking, mouth breathing, or tongue thrusting that extend from babyhood into early childhood can impact the direction of teeth. Prolonged thumbsucking and tongue thrusting can push out your top front teeth, while mouth breathing can cause your jaw to develop lower and further back.
When you have a mismatch between the smaller size of your jaw and the size of your teeth, your teeth might not have enough room and end up sitting too closely together. Crowded teeth can cause issues with your oral hygiene — it might be hard to floss or brush effectively into the nooks and crannies when teeth are too tight together. Insufficient brushing and flossing can then lead to tooth decay or gum disease. Of course, it also goes without saying that many people want to fix their crowded teeth to feel more confident about their smile, either with braces or clear aligners like Invisalign®. These are both options we offer at Davis Orthodontics.
Let’s be honest, sometimes having gap teeth is endearing, like when kids have a gap in their front teeth during the transition from baby to adult teeth. For teens and adults though, gap teeth aren’t always preferable. While it’s not typically necessary to treat gap teeth for oral health reasons, some prefer treatment for aesthetics. Also called “diastema”, gap teeth refers to teeth that have space between them wider than half a millimeter. Gap teeth sometimes happen when your jaw is larger than the size your teeth need, or conversely, when your teeth are smaller or some are missing. If you’re missing your lateral incisors — the teeth on either side of your two top front teeth — this can cause gapping between teeth and it’s something that Dr. Buddy can treat easily at his Simpsonville and Greer offices. Missing lateral incisors is genetic and happens to about 2% of people.
What Are Other Symptoms of A Bad Bite?
Now that we’ve covered what a bad bite looks like, what are signs you might feel or experience when you have dental malocclusion?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) hinges your lower jaw to your skull. It gives your jaw the ability to move for things like speaking, yawning and chewing. If you have a bad bite, your TMJ might not properly align, resulting in some pain when you open and close your jaw. You might also experience some stiffness, soreness, or hear a clicking noise.
Teeth grinding and clenching your jaw:
Do you grind your teeth at night? Or during the daytime? Grinding your teeth — or clenching your jaw — is a sign that your teeth might be misaligned, which puts stress on your jaw. In turn, the stress can lead to headaches and jaw pain. Over time, teeth grinding can also wear down the enamel on your teeth and you might experience more tooth sensitivity or be more prone to tooth decay.
Most of us get headaches at one point or another. But if it seems like you get headaches a lot and you’ve ruled out other causes — like stress, computer use or diet — your headaches could be the result of a bad bite. A misaligned jaw can cause tension on facial joints like your TMJ as well as put strain on the tissue and ligaments around your jaw.
Trouble with speaking:
Another way you can tell if you have a bad bite versus a normal bite is if you have difficulty pronouncing sounds or enunciating clearly. Misaligned teeth can show up in a lisp. Or sometimes a smaller jaw doesn’t allow room for your tongue to move freely and it takes extra effort to form words correctly.
When you look in the mirror, does your face seem asymmetrical? If so, it might be because of a bad bite. Proper bite alignment and straight teeth help define the length and shape of your face, the symmetry of the left and right sides and the structure of your jawbone.
How to Fix Bite Alignment
Ultimately, only a specialized certified orthodontist like Dr. Buddy, Dr. Adam, or Dr. Sarah can correctly diagnose if you have a bad bite or if your teeth form a normal bite. An orthodontist has the expertise in not only aligning your teeth into a straight smile, but also in assessing the alignment of your face and jaw overall and considering your long-term oral health.
At Davis Orthodontics, we treat each patient with their specific needs and goals in mind. If your bad bite needs braces, we use cutting edge technology to help you step-by-step through the process. If crooked teeth can benefit from Invisalign, we can plan a convenient and discreet treatment that fits into your lifestyle.
A New Smile and A New You With Proper Bite Alignment
Remember those symptoms we mentioned earlier? The TMJ pain, the headaches and teeth grinding? These life-interfering symptoms are greatly alleviated once you have a normal bite and teeth position. Your quality of life can improve dramatically, whether it’s becoming pain-free or having a straight smile… or both. Yep, when it comes to your teeth, you can pretty much have it all!
Dr. Buddy, Dr. Adam, Dr. Sarah, and the team at Davis Orthodontics are here to help you leave a bad bite behind and achieve the healthy, dream smile you’ve always wanted. Whether Simpsonville or Greer, Anderson, Walhalla or any of our seven locations, we’re conveniently close and ready for you. Contact us today to get started!