Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Treatment of "Overbites" - part 1/2

The purpose of correcting an “overbite” is not cosmetic. It is important to have a proper bite where the teeth work as they are intended to prevent future problems and breakdown of the teeth and jaw muscles. That said, positive changes to the jaw line and facial profile will also be noticed.

The job of an orthodontist is not to solely move teeth. Our specialty is called “Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics” and this means that we also must consider the structure of the whole face when deciding how to move teeth.

In the past, all “overbites” were treated with either a headgear or the removal of two permanent upper teeth to allow moving the front teeth towards the back (towards meeting the lower teeth). You may be wondering: “are headgears still around??” The answer is, you bet they are. And you want to know why? Because they are efficient if properly worn.

The headgear is an appliance that prevents the upper jaw from continuing to outgrow the lower jaw. The appliance is attached to the upper first permanent molars (back teeth), via bands and tubes. A backwards force is the applied through a neck or head strap to limit the forward growth of the upper jaw. This type of treatment works well for patients that have a prominent upper jaw and/or upper front teeth that need to be moved back.

Headgears can also be used to make more space for teeth to come in. In this instance the headgear is attached to the molars and a light force is applied to help to draw these molars backwards in the mouth, opening up space for the front teeth to be moved back using braces and bands. Multiple appliances and accessories are typically used along with the headgear, especially braces and elastics.

But what about those patients whose “overbite” is due to a small lower jaw? Does it make sense to adapt a good upper jaw to a faulty lower one? Stay tuned for the answer in my next entry