Dentists correct cavities and fix teeth. Orthodontists fix tooth alignments, and that means more than just straightening them with braces. Your jaw plays a key role in determining how well your teeth lineup, and as such there are a lot of misalignments that an orthodontist can help correct.
An overbite is one of the more common misalignments that orthodontists encounter. An overbite happens when the upper teeth overhang the lower teeth, and this can happen when the upper jaw overdevelops or the lower jawbone underdevelops. This makes it hard to bite things with your front teeth, it can cause joint problems when you try to compensate, and if your teeth are misaligned enough they can start biting into your gums. Orthodontists can correct an overbite by helping the lower jaw develop during childhood and by using elastics on retainers or braces to move the lower jaw forward.
An underbite is the same problem as the overbite but in reverse: the lower jaw has overdeveloped and now it sticks out in front of the upper jaw. It has the same solutions as an overbite, too, but the solution can sometimes include removing teeth or even surgically removing part of the jawbone to make sure it lines up correctly.
When the upper teeth bite on the inside of the lower teeth, this is called a crossbite. While the molars should line up together top to bottom, a crossbite means the upper teeth sit on the inside of the lower teeth. It’s harder to see than an overbite or underbite, but it can wear down your teeth and even damage your gums. If the problem is a single tooth, a set of braces can fix it, but if the problem is that the upper palate has underdeveloped an orthodontist will start with a palatal expander, hopefully as early as possible.
This bite problem can happen naturally, but it can also happen because of thumb sucking, nervous biting, or other habits that involve biting things that you shouldn’t put in your mouth. Ending these habits is the first step to fixing an open bite, and after that the best solution is braces. Invisalign braces are a particularly good choice since they’re best for realigning front teeth. However, in particularly bad cases oral surgery may be necessary.
Misaligned teeth don’t make for the best smiles, but more importantly, they also don’t make for the healthiest mouths. Overbites, underbites, and all the rest can damage your teeth and your gums, and over time they can cause even more problems than cavities. Caring for your teeth is important, and that means more than just brushing and flossing every day.