An overbite occurs when the front teeth protrudes over the lower ones, causing the lower teeth to be hidden. Overbites are commonly seen in children, and they can potentially be caused by thumb sucking, pacifier use, or drinking from a sippy cup instead of a straw. Treating an overbite is typically an easy process, but it requires the use of braces or aligners. If you've noticed that your child's front teeth are hiding his or her lower ones, read on for more information about overbites and how they can be treated.
How Can You Tell if Your Child Has an Overbite?
A slight overbite is actually the normal anatomical position for teeth. The upper teeth should protrude out a tiny distance over the lower ones, which will result in the upper teeth slightly covering the lower ones when the mouth is closed.
An overbite (class II malocclusion) occurs when the upper teeth protrude out further than that. This typically results in the lower teeth being completely covered by the upper ones when the mouth is closed. In extreme cases of an overbite, the upper teeth may protrude out over the lower ones by half an inch or more. If your child's lower teeth are mostly or completely covered when his or her mouth is closed, then this may be indicative of an overbite.
What Can Cause Children to Develop an Overbite?
Overbites are common in children because they're often caused by thumb sucking. Thumb sucking, especially when it's done aggressively, places a considerable amount of forward pressure on the upper jaw. This causes it to shift forward and protrude out over the lower jaw, resulting in an overbite. Using a pacifier or a sippy cup can also apply the same pressure to the upper jaw, although to a much lesser extent. However, they can both also contribute to children developing an overbite.
Additionally, an overbite can be hereditary. If you suffered from an overbite as a child that needed to be corrected or if they are common in your family, then the reason for your child's overbite may simply be genetic.
Can a Child's Overbite Cause Problems?
Overbites, especially when they are severe, are a cosmetic issue that can result in children feeling anxious about the appearance of their teeth. Correcting a child's overbite will improve their smile.
However, overbites can also have consequences for oral health. When the lower teeth constantly brush against the backs of the upper ones, it can erode the enamel. This makes cavities more likely to form.
An overbite can also lead to children having difficulty chewing food properly, since the teeth are not in their proper anatomical position. It may also cause children to develop speech problems, most often manifesting as a lisp.
How Is an Overbite Treated?
The most common treatments for an overbite are braces and aligners. Both of these dental appliances will exert gentle pressure on your child's teeth, slowly moving them into their proper anatomical position.
The best time to treat an overbite in children depends on its severity and its potential for causing oral health problems. For a minor overbite, many orthodontists will wait until the child is in his or her adolescence to treat it. The growth spurt during adolescence affects the jaw as well, which means that braces and aligners can bring quick results during this period.
For a more severe overbite that is likely to cause oral health complications, treatment will begin as soon as possible. In either case, it's best to treat your child's overbite before he or she reaches adulthood—once adolescence is over, the jaw becomes much more resistant to being guided into its proper position. Treatment is much quicker when done during childhood or adolescence.
If you think that your child may be suffering from an overbite, schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentistry clinic. Your pediatric dentist will take X-rays of your child's mouth in order to determine the severity of his or her overbite, and then determine the best course of treatment based on that information.