Underbite In Toddlers: Causes And Treatment


Underbite In Toddlers

Dental statistics reveal that merely 10% of the world’s population bites correctly. Yes, you read that right! It’s incredible how a majority of the people don’t realize that there’s actually a correct way to bite! Have you ever thought about it? Unlikely!

Interestingly, the correct bite is one wherein the position of the jaws is maintained such that the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower.

Why Is A Correct Bite So Important?

What’s the big deal if one does not have a correct bite? Does it really affect the quality of life? Definitely!

The bite reflects the state of the base of the skull, a strategically important area through which numerous nerves and vessels pass.

The accuracy of this area ensures that the brain is well supplied with blood at all times. The result? The impulses to and from the brain pass correctly, ensuring optimal regulation of the body functions.

However, certain disorders can interfere with this And underbite is one of them! Yes, your quality of nerves can be damaged, putting the entire system at risk, all because of the way you bite! Typically, underbites are seen in toddlers.

Keep this in mind; bite correction is crucial not only to maintaining a beautiful smile but also for your overall health.

Is Your Baby Biting Right?

Underbite has to be corrected at the early stage. But how will you know if your baby is biting as he should or if there’s a problem? How to identify a normal bite? Here’s what you should look for.

  • The teeth grow crowded together with proper biting
  • You will notice small gaps between the normal teeth
  • The molars will be larger compared to the rest of the teeth and will have a reserve on top of them
  • In case milk teeth grow one-to-one or bump against each other, it indicates that the molar teeth too will be closer and will grow on one another, literally!

Underbites In Toddlers

The question is, when should you be worried that your little one might have the problem of underbite?

Underbite in toddlers happens when:

  • A distal – overdeveloped upper jaw or underdeveloped lower jaw
  • Mesial – lower jaw pushed forward
  • Deep – the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth by more than half their length
  • Open – most of the teeth of the upper and lower jaw are not closed
  • Cross – one-sided underdevelopment of the upper or lower dentition
  • Associated with dystopia (for example, canines) – the teeth are not in their place in the dentition (above, below, or side).

Causes Of Underbite In Toddlers

Causes Of Underbite In Toddlers

Underbite in toddlers can be attributed to various factors. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Genetics

Yes, in some cases, an underbite can be inherited. If either parent has the problem of an underbite, there’s a chance that the kid will follow the same path.

Another reason for underbite could be the bad habits of the baby. This includes thumb sucking or long sucking dummy.

Violation of teeth during teething can also cause underbites. Similarly, an underbite can be an associated symptom of other medical conditions like rickets.

Artificial Feeding

The formation of pathological bites in children may begin as early as infancy. Most often, the underbite is diagnosed in children receiving artificial nutrition.

The fact is, in newborns lower jaw is somewhat shortened in relation to the upper. It is during the first year of life, during the process of natural feeding, that the size of the jaws is equalized. Sucking the maternal breast is accompanied by the active work of the facial muscles and movements of the lower jaw, which contributes to its development.

In contrast, bottle feeding does not require a child to suckle and use the lower jaw, so she continues to lag behind in size from the upper jaw. And this leads to an underbite.

Premature Loss Of Milk Teeth

An important cause of underbite in children is premature loss of milk teeth. Violation of teething due to lack of minerals (fluoride, calcium) in the body, multiple caries, short frenulum of the tongue, and jaw injury all can contribute to an underbite. Relatively rarely, underbite in children is the result of congenital disabilities, such as cleft palate or underdevelopment of the jaws.

Types Of Underbites

Interestingly, not all underbites are the same. There are various types of it, and their treatment differs too.

Dental Underbites

As the name implies, this type of underbite occurs due to teeth misalignment. This happens when the upper and lower teeth aren’t aligned correctly as you bite, resulting in crossbites.

Crossbites refer to the condition wherein some of the bottom teeth are located outside the upper teeth as the jaws are closed.

A dental bite occurs when the crossbite is in front of the mouth instead of the sides. Here, the teeth are slightly forward in position. But you won’t find the lower jaw protruding forward.

Skeletal Underbites

Skeletal underbites result due to malformation of the jawbone. Naturally, this malocclusion is primarily genetic and present at birth.

In some cases, an underbite can occur due to a combination of both skeletal and dental issues. Yes, it’s possible for a toddler to have teeth misalignment and jaw malformation at the same time!

How Vital Is It To Correct Underbite?

Yes, an underbite can be corrected. But do you really need to be worried about it? What would happen if you don’t correct your underbite on time?

For one thing, let’s not forget that underbites don’t look normal. They make it difficult to express your emotions via facial expressions. And this can take a toll on your kid’s confidence. It’s common for kids with underbites to grow up being socially awkward. Surely you wouldn’t want that!

And it’s not only about appearance! Underbites can also pose several other problems like difficulty in chewing and eating. Children can experience expressive jaw pain. Sometimes, an underbite can make way for challenges with speaking!

Underbites also increase the risk of tooth decay as the enamel is increasingly worn down. People with underbites also encounter difficulties in sleeping, like snoring and sleep apnea.

Indeed, many complications can arise due to underbites. Hence, it’s advisable to get them corrected at the earliest. After all, why wait for the problem to get bigger when there are plenty of solutions available?

How To Correct Underbite In Children?

Luckily, there are many treatment options for underbites. Which treatment is suitable for your kid depends on the severity of the underbite. It’s advisable for children to be taken to an orthodontist by 7 years of age if he has an underbite. This will ensure that the treatment is commenced timely.

An Upper Jaw Expander

During the early stage, if the underbite isn’t severe and no complications have developed, a simple appliance will be enough to remedy the situation.

The upper jaw expander is a wire-frame device that has to be placed across the child’s palate. A special key is provided with it that you have to use every night to widen the jaw by a very small amount. Keep in mind that you have to widen the gap gradually.

Eventually, the process will cause the upper jaw to widen enough to correct the underbite. Usually, it doesn’t take more than a year for the underbite to be corrected with the help of the upper jaw expander. Once the jaw is widened enough, the patient has to use a retainer for a while to hold the teeth in place.

The “Reverse-Pull” Face Mask

This one’s a bit more complicated and is usually used when the upper jaw expander does not work. It looks like headgear and has to be wrapped around the child’s head. Metal bands are used to fasten the mask to the upper back teeth. The upper jaw is then pulled back into the correct position.

It can be a bit painful for the kid, which is why this method is mostly reserved for advanced cases.

Braces

If none of the appliances work, it’s braces that can come to your rescue. Indeed, braces are among the most commonly used treatment methods for underbites.

Braces comprise several components, and we won’t be going into much detail. However, all you have to know is that braces involve brackets that are bonded directly in front of the tooth. These brackets hold the wires which move teeth in their correct position.

Sometimes, braces also include spacers, the purpose of which is to create space between the teeth. You will also notice rubber ties that hold the wire to the brackets, and then there are the rubber bands attached to the brackets of both upper and lower teeth. Their purpose is to apply pressure, thereby creating a perfect bite.

Braces will take some time to show results, but eventually, once they are removed, you will see a perfectly beautiful smile on your kid.

Surgery

When all else fails, and the underbite is extremely severe, surgery is required. Although dentists rarely ever recommend surgery, sometimes it’s inevitable.

But if underbite is treated early, there’s a high chance that surgery can be avoided for good.

The Work Of An Osteopath

If the cause of an underbite is skeletal, you will need the services of an osteopath to remedy the situation. An osteopath builds the musculoskeletal system. He restores the mobility and plasticity of all joints. Hence, he can help ensure the formation of a beautiful and healthy bite.

Timely Action Can Save The Day!

The thing about underbites is that a lot of complications can be evaded if timely action is taken against them. If you notice something amiss with your toddler’s bite or have recognized some danger signs, don’t delay in taking him to a doctor right away! After all, it’s his quality of life at stake. And you wouldn’t want him to suffer due to a bit of negligence!

Alyssa Bieler

Alyssa Bieler is a writer with a medical background, currently working for a county health department in Florida. She is a well-respected public health researcher on a variety of topics related to nutrition, wellness, and health.

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