Open Bite

What is an open bite?

Your orthodontist may have told you that you or your child have an “open bite” and need orthodontic treatment to correct it and improve your oral health.

You are wondering what an open bite is, aren’t you? Ok, be with us to learn the meaning of this rare dental condition, its causes, and above all, the possible treatment options your orthodontist may suggest to fix your open bites.

Kids Open bite treatment
Open bite symptoms

Open Bites

“when your top and bottom teeth refuse to touch, resulting in a vertical gap between the upper and lower teeth.” 

Orthodontists will say you have an open bite if your upper and lower teeth do not overlap when you close your mouth. It is a rare type of orthodontic malocclusion that typically affect children(during the primary and mixed dentition phase) rather than adults. It may occur to adults, too, most probably since they haven’t had treatment as a child.

What is Occlusion?

Occlusion refers to the alignment of the teeth and jaw. In other words, occlusion refers to the contact between the teeth and how the teeth meet when the lower and upper jaw come together.

What is Malocclusion?

Malocclusion is a bad, poor, or imperfect bite caused by improper positioning of the teeth when your jaws are shut (misaligned teeth). Malocclusion can cause the person to have chewing or speaking difficulties because teeth need to be in a proper alignment to perform their required function correctly.

Different types of malocclusions:

  • overbites
  • underbites
  • cross bites
  • deep bites
  • open bites

An ideal bite

“when the top and bottom rows of teeth connect all the way across.”

A correct healthy bite occurs when there’s no malocclusion and your upper teeth slightly overlap or fit over your lower teeth. In a healthy bite, your teeth are aligned properly. If you have an open bite malocclusion, there is no vertical overlap between your anterior teeth. In this case, the upper and lower front teeth slant outwards and do not touch each other when you bite, causing a gap or an opening between the upper and lower jaw.

We need our anterior teeth or the so-called “incisors” to bite into foods and cut them into smaller pieces.

Types of Open Bite

Open bite is of two types: anterior open bites and posterior open bites. Let’s see what the difference is between the two types.

Anterior Open Bite

Anterior open bite occurs in the front of your mouth. If your upper front and lower front teeth do not fit when you bite, you have an anterior open bite. In an anterior open bite, the front teeth in the upper and lower jaws have slanted outward and cannot touch each other when the jaw is closed or in a resting position.

Biting down on food, tearing food, or even speaking would challenge people with an anterior open bite. Anterior open bite patients may notice all or just some of their front teeth affected by dental open bite.

Posterior Open Bite

A posterior open bite occurs at the back of your mouth (posterior teeth) and means your back teeth do not meet when you close your mouth.

Patients with posterior open bites find it difficult to chew foods properly.

What causes an open bite?

Numerous factors may give rise to an open bite malocclusion. Skeletal open bite, for instance, occurs due to genetic factors. At the same time, some early childhood functional habits and conditions like tongue-thrusting habit, finger sucking, or thumb sucking may be the reason for a dental open bite.

In some cases, a transition from baby teeth to permanent teeth may lead to an open bite. (a change from primary dentition to permanent dentition)

Take a look at some of the causes of open bite:

  • Genetics
  • Skeletal problem
  • Prolonged bottle-feeding
  • Long-term thumb sucking, pacifier sucking, or finger sucking
  • Sucking the lower lip
  • Tongue thrusting
  • Missing teeth
  • Insufficient space for the permanent teeth (adult teeth) to erupt
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder)
  • Facial trauma
  • Ill-fitting dental restoration
  • Jaw or mouth tumour
  • Airway obstruction
  • Mouth breathing

Skeletal open bite

Skeletal open bites are usually caused due to genetic issues and are associated with abnormal growth of the face. (lower jaw and upper jaw have not developed parallel to each other)

The irregular growth and development of the two jawbones or molars caused by genetic problems can lead to skeletal open bite. In other words, skeletal open bites result from abnormal jaw growth. Upper jaws and lower jaws grow apart rather than growing in a correct position and developing parallel to each other.

Dental open bite

If the patient has normal jaw growth, but their anterior teeth fail to touch, it’s a dental open bite. Some early childhood oral habits like prolonged thumb sucking or tongue thrusting may lead to dental open bites.

Thumb sucking or pacifier sucking 

While most children may develop these habits, thumb sucking or finger sucking may lead to oral health problems in the future. Thumb sucking will give rise to an open bite since it can interfere with the proper teeth alignment by preventing the upper front teeth from overlapping over the lower front teeth.

Tongue thrust (improper tongue posture)

Tongue thrusting is when the tongue pushes outward between the front teeth while swallowing, speaking, or eating something. If your child pushes their tongue between their upper and lower front teeth, chances are they develop an open bite.

What are the problems associated with an open bite?

The side effects of an open bite

It’s not just improving appearance and self-esteem that we’re talking about here! It’s many oral health issues that an untreated open bite may create for you!

We have listed some common challenges that an untreated open bite can cause:

  • difficulty biting into food
  • difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • speech problems
  • toothache
  • jaw pain; the posterior teeth or back teeth can close very tightly, resulting in tooth and jaw pain
  • incorrect tongue position
  • excessive wear of other teeth
  • crooked front teeth

Pediatric Dentistry

How early can I close my child’s open bite?

Parents can seek treatment for their child’s open bite when they are seven years old. An early orthodontic assessment at an early age can increase the chance of successful orthodontic treatment. However, adults with an untreated open bite can still have hopes to have their malocclusion corrected successfully.

Open bite treatments

How to correct an open bite?

Open bite treatment options vary and are decided after a thorough orthodontic assessment.

Below you can find common treatment options orthodontists may offer to correct an open bite: 

Orthodontic headgear

This appliance will help guide the upper and lower jaws into proper alignment. A high-pull headgear will control the jaw growth and help with teeth alignment by attaching to the upper side and backside of the head. Orthodontists will typically use high pull headgear with braces to achieve better results.

Clear aligners

Invisalign or clear aligners are effective orthodontic appliances and can correct some malocclusions depending on the severity of the problem. Clear aligners are not used to correct severe orthodontic problems. Invisalign is not typically used to correct severe cases of open bite, maybe minor anterior open bite.

Traditional braces

Traditional dental braces can also effectively correct open bites for teenagers and adults who have gotten permanent teeth.

Behaviour modification may also be needed to increase the chance of the treatments, especially in adults.

Roller appliance

A roller appliance is used to strengthen the tongue’s muscle and alleviate tongue thrust. Roller appliances are attached to braces and make it impossible for the tongue to press against the teeth.

Vertical chin cup

A vertical chin cup may be used to correct an open bite by preventing the lower part of the face from growing during the period of mixed and early permanent dentition. A vertical chin cup doesn’t let the chin grow backward or down because it keeps the mouth in a closed position. Vertical chin cups are effective options for children because their mouths develop; these appliances should be worn for long hours per day.

Bite blocks

Bite blocks are made of two pieces of plastic and are used to address an anterior open bite. Bite blocks are placed at the back of your lower dentition on the two back molars in the lower jaws to help move the front teeth back gradually. They work best for children who haven’t had all of their adult teeth.

Tongue Crib Therapy

Tongue crib appliances help control the habits like tongue thrusting or thumb sucking that can cause an open bite over time. A tongue crib works by blocking the top front roof of the mouth and making the action of sucking fingers impossible.

There might be some side effects associated with malocclusion treatments:

  • A tongue crib can trap food and cause swelling.
  • The person may get a gummy smile!

Ask your orthodontist for more information!

Jaw surgery (Orthognathic surgery)

Jaw surgery is suggested if the person has severe open bite malocclusion typically caused by injury or genetics (skeletal problems).

Jaw surgery will be performed to reposition the jaw and is a good option for people who have already got all their permanent teeth.

Do you need to schedule an appointment with an experienced kids dentist in Brisbane? You are welcome to contact our professional dental team on 07 3343 4869.