How your teeth meet and align when you bring them together in their rest position is known as occlusion. Ideally, your teeth should meet up against each other perfectly with your upper teeth resting just slightly further out of your lower teeth and the front cusp of your upper molars resting just in front of the front cusp of your lower molars.
However, teeth do not always match up as expected, leading to a condition known as malocclusion. there are several types of malocclusions. one common type is an open bite. In this article, we are going to look at how to fix an open bite in Malta, discussing its causes and how to prevent it.
What Is An Open Bite?
When a patient has an open bite, their upper and lower front teeth do not come together when they close their mouth. This results in an opening between the rows of teeth. An open bite not only affects the appearance of your smile, but it can also cause difficulty with speaking leading to different types of speech impediments like lisp.
What Are The Leading Causes Of Open Bite?
Three different factors contribute to an open bite and misalignment of teeth;
Jawbone problems like TMJ – temporomandibular joint disorder – can cause an open bite. The patient may experience chronic pain in the jaw whenever they try to bring their teeth together. Hence, they may resort to pushing their tongue against the teeth to set them apart to put their jaw in a better soothing position.
A Mix Of Both Milk Teeth And Permanent Teeth In Children
When children have a combination of permanent and deciduous teeth, the teeth will not be able to close up well until they have lost all their baby teeth and grown all their adult teeth.
A person’s habit can cause an open bite. For instance, people who adopt the tongue thrusting habit tend to develop an open bite. Tongue thrusting occurs when you push your tongue through your teeth when speaking or swallowing. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, this habit is more rampant during early childhood. However, most children grow out of it. Those who don’t may develop issues with their speech and bite.
Other habits that cause an open bite include;
- Thumb sucking. According to the New Zealand Association of Orthodontist, at least 50% of people suck their thumb in early childhood. However, the habit only becomes an issue if it continues even after the permanent teeth have grown or when the child has a mix of milk and adult teeth.
- Chewing on foreign objects like the ends of a pen or pencil and prolonged bottle or pacifier use also contribute to the problem.
- Improper bottle or pacifier use
- Mouth-breathers are also more prone to developing an anterior open bite.
Types Of Open Bite
Anterior Open Bite
This occurs when incisors and sometimes canines do not meet. It is caused by the conditions discussed above.
Posterior Open Bite
This means that when you bring your teeth together in their normal rest position some or all of your molars and premolars do not come in contact. A posterior open bite can be present unilaterally or bilaterally.
This often occurs when, although the top front teeth cover the lower front teeth when the teeth are brought together, the lower set of front teeth does not actually touch the upper set of front teeth.
A study by the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics indicates that an open bite can be harder to treat than treating any other type of misaligned teeth.
Managing An Open Bite Caused By A Mix Of Baby And Permanent Teeth
When an open bite occurs in children with a mix of baby and permanent teeth, the problem can sometimes correct itself as the child loses baby teeth and more permanent ones erupt.
Related Reading: Child Dental Care In Malta : Frequently Asked Questions
Treating An Open Bite Caused By Jawbone Issues
An open bite caused by a skeletal issue like jawbones that do not fit together properly may require orthodontic surgery. The surgeon performing the procedure will need to manipulate one or both of your jawbones to allow realigning of the jaw bones for better-aligned teeth. This is called orthognathic surgery.
There are different orthodontic devices that can also be used to correct the opening in your bite. For instance, a dental appliance may help keep your tongue from pushing or forcing its way through the teeth. headgear can help reposition your jaws as well as correct your bite.
Fortunately, there is a wide array of treatment options available for an open bite. These treatment methods depend on various factors, including age, habits, patient compliance, underlying skeletal patterns and severity of the malocclusion.
A combination of fixed and removable orthodontics is the treatment of choice with orthognathic surgery being reserved for severe malocclusions. In adults, it may be impossible to correct an anterior open bite without surgery.
How To Avoid An Open Bite
Since this condition is caused by a variety of factors, absolute prevention may not be possible. However, there are some things that you can do to minimise your risk of developing this biting problem.
Avoid Thumb Sucking Or Tongue Thrusting Habits
These habits tend to develop at a young age. parents are advised to watch over their children and try to help them break these habits. Once they stop, and if at a young age, the open bite tends to resolve on its own, although it might take a few years. If the habit has affected the development of the palate (it usually remains narrow and deep) the problem will need to be resolved through orthodontics.
Mouth- breathing is usually the result of partial blockage of the nasal cavities. several factors could contribute to this including a deviated nasal septum or nasal polyps ( granulation tissue in the nose). Visiting an ENT specialist to diagnose and treat the problem is highly advisable.
What Happens If You Do Not Treat An Open Bite?
This is one of the most common questions that we receive about this condition. If you do not treat an open bite;
- It might affect your smile. Having a crooked smile can be embarrassing enough. But suffering from an open bite can take away your confidence and self-esteem.
- If not treated, there is a high likelihood that you may develop a lisp. A lisp will affect not only your speech but also the effectiveness of your words when you speak.
- In severe cases, an untreated open bit can inhibit you from chewing your food properly. Also, food and drinks may easily seep out of your tongue.
Since an open bite causes the back teeth to overlap more than necessary, it may cause tooth wear. After a prolonged period of time, this may lead to acute pain while chewing and may even cause other dental issues.
Narrow, high-vaulted palates increase the risk of fungal infections on the roof of the mouth due to cleaning difficulties.
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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.
Dr Joseph Xuereb
Dental & Implant Surgeon. Principal
Savina Dental Clinics