ST. PAUL, LAKEVILLE & PRIOR LAKE, MINNESOTA – We would venture to say there isn’t a malocclusion that we haven’t seen and treated here at Cosmopolitan Orthodontics.
But while bite and alignment issues are routine for any adult or pediatric orthodontist, we know that you may not be aware of all the intricacies involved if you or your children have been recommended for orthodontic treatment. For that reason, we occasionally write about a specific type of malocclusion. Today we’re tackling open bite.
An open bite is the term used to describe a bite where the front teeth don’t touch when your jaws are closed and your back teeth are touching.
“As you can imagine, this poses some aesthetic setbacks, but the problems actually go beyond that,” says Dr. Trudy Bonvino, a Lakeville and St. Paul orthodontics expert who offers braces and other orthodontic treatment options for children and adults.
Uncorrected open bites make it difficult for you to chew and swallow appropriately. This type of malocclusion also can cause speech impediments. Over time, open bite can cause the jaw to pop or click.
What causes open bite?
Genetics, thumb-sucking, tongue-thrusting (by itself, or secondarily to other poor habits), mouth breathing and using a pacifier for too long can cause children to develop an open bite.
The act of thumb-sucking creates palatal changes. It also alters the nasal septum. The resulting high palate can lead to a lifetime of breathing difficulty. When this happens, a tongue-thrusting habit may begin, which only exacerbates the problem.
When identified early, open bite often can be corrected with orthodontic treatment. Otherwise, surgery may be required if the problem is left untreated for too long.
“This is another reason why orthodontists preach the importance of having children evaluated by an orthodontist by age 7,” says St. Paul braces expert Dr. Bonvino.
Open bite is one problem that can successfully be corrected, provided it is identified and treated early. Correcting an open bite while the child is still growing makes it possible for Dr. Bonvino to use the child’s growth to her advantage and incorporate it into treatment.
One key to ensuring open bite doesn’t recur is addressing the reasons why it happened to begin with, Dr. Bonvino says.
“For example, if a child sucks her thumb and doesn’t break the habit, the open bite can recur,” she says.
There are orthodontic appliances that can be used to eliminate the pleasant sensation of thumb- or finger-sucking. Another option is orofacial myofunctional therapy. This is a type of therapy for the head, neck and face, and it involves teaching the patient to chew, breathe and swallow correctly.
Besides correcting a bad bite, let’s not forget that orthodontic treatment to open bite also leads to a pleasing smile. And THAT is something to smile about.
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