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When your teeth line up properly and meet together, it is known as ideal occlusion (aka:good bite). Ideally, everyone’s teeth would match up perfectly with the upper teeth resting slightly overlapping and touching the lower teeth when the bite is closed. When the occlusion/ bite does not line up this way we refer to this as a malocclusion (aka: badbite). One type of malocclusion is called an open bite.


If you are wondering what an open bite looks like, generally you will see a space or gap between the upper and lower front teeth when you bite together on your back teeth. An open bite often affects more than just the look of your smile. Many times it can also lead to difficulty in speaking, and difficulties in chewing and tearing foods.


Generally speaking, there are three primary reasons why someone may have an open bite. In many cases, the opening is caused because of an underlying issue with the jaw bone. Other times, children will develop an open bite due to a finger or pacifier habit that doesn’t allow for the normal growth of their baby or permanent teeth and jaws. The third most common reason for an open bite a tongue thrust habit. A tongue thrust is when one pushes their tongue between the upper front top and bottom teeth forcing them apart over the years.


Treatment of an open bite can be quite challenging and is often more difficult than treating misaligned teeth alone since the issues relating to the underlying bone and jaw structures must be addressed as well. A study that was conducted by the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics has shown that open bites can be very hard to treat if the patient is beyond early adolescence. This is why with open bites, the earlier you can bring yourself or your child in the greater likelihood there is of correction. With children especially, the best time to treat tongue thrusts, or habit induced open bites is when they are 7-10 years old and still have a mix of baby and adult teeth.

If a severe open bite presents in an adult or non-growing adolescent, then surgery may be necessary along with braces to correct the open bite. During the surgical procedure, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon may remove a small portion of the upper jaw to allow for a proper fit of the upper and lower jaw together. Other milder forms of open bite in adults and non-growing adolescents may be able to be addressed with select tooth extractions and rubber bands in either Invisalign or braces therapy.

If you feel that you have an open bite and would like to discuss the details of your personal situation, call Dr. April Lee at Burlingame Smile Studio to set up a complimentary orthodontic consultation. Our telephone number is (650) 231-2680 and we look forward to meeting you!


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