You love your child’s big, bright smile. You may have noticed that their smile is extra large because the upper teeth and jaw are more pronounced than the lower jaw. When the upper set of teeth move too far forward over the lower teeth, your child has an overbite. If untreated, your loved one could be teased at school about this facial feature.
An overbite not only changes the facial appearance, but also can cause other issues such as impaired speech, problems chewing, damage to other teeth, and even breathing problems. It becomes a health issue as well as an unflattering facial feature.
While braces may be recommended for your child’s teeth, braces alone can’t correct a severe overbite. The lower jaw may not be growing in proportion to the upper jaw, or the upper jaw may be too small to accommodate adult teeth, causing the jaw to move forward to try to accommodate them. Modifying the growth of the upper or lower jaw is the goal of treatment. Beginning on the youngest side of the appropriate age yields the most positive results.
One of three dental devices that apply gentle pressure over time to the upper jaw and teeth can correct the problem. Modern dentistry uses growth modifying appliances to correct this type of malocclusion of your child’s teeth. Dr. Karen Reese, orthodontic specialist with Reese Orthodontics in New Hope and Chanhassen, Minnesota, has years of experience with growth-modifying appliances and is ready to help.
If Dr. Reese determines that your child needs a palate expander, it’s because their upper jaw is very small and won’t have room for all of their adult teeth. A palate expander slowly makes your child’s upper jaw wider so the teeth have enough room to fit into your child’s mouth. The expander is a dental appliance that has two parts which affix to the molars in the upper teeth. A screw gradually separates the two parts so that the palate widens.
When your child’s upper jaw is moving too far forward in comparison to the lower jaw, the upper teeth may eventually hit the lower gums if their overbite isn’t corrected. The problem is likely a difference in growth between the upper and lower jaws. Dr. Reese may recommend the Herbst dental appliance. This device consists of metal bands and rods attached to the back molars to move the lower jaw forward so that it better matches the upper jaw’s position, as well as a palate expander that enlarges the upper jaw.
A bionator is a removable device that aids growth of the lower jaw. It’s removable, but should be worn most of the time except when eating or playing sports. Compliance with wearing this device is high, because it’s easy for your child to use. Treatment proves most effective when the bionator is used just prior to their growth spurt in puberty — for girls, between the ages of 8-13; for boys, 10-15.