When your jaw is closed, do your top and bottom teeth connect? If not, you could have an open bite. Although rare, open bites can cause problems with chewing and swallowing. They can be caused by tongue thrust, thumb-sucking, or TMJ, and can be treated with myofunctional therapy as a way to realign the bite. And while an open bite isn’t dangerous to your overall health, it may reduce your quality of life if you don’t get the proper treatment. Here we help identify open bites and what we can do to fix them.
What is an Open Bite?
An open bite is a type of malocclusion, which means your teeth are not properly aligned. Our top and bottom teeth are meant to match up when we close our mouths or when our mouth is in a resting position. Your upper teeth should rest just slightly forward from your bottom teeth for a comfortable fit. This allows your lower and upper molars to fit together when you close your jaw. However, when this isn’t the case, there’s a chance you have one. There are actually two types of open bites:
1. Anterior: An anterior open bite is when your top and bottom front teeth do not overlap. You’ll also likely have forward tongue rest posture and an anterior lisp.
2. Posterior: Posterior open bites occur when your back teeth don’t touch when your mouth is closed.
Both types of open bites can lead to oral health issues, including:
- Speech impediments such as a lisp
- Chewing issues
- Swallowing issues
- Improper saliva flow
- Improper tongue positioning
You can also experience irregular wearing of your other teeth, which can cause damage and pain to your teeth and jaw.
What Causes One?
There are three things that increase your risk for an open bite:
1. Behavior: Extended use of a pacifier, thumb sucking, and tongue thrusting behaviors are a main cause of an anterior open bite. It’s typical that the tongue’s position is the main reason for difficulty achieving the closure of an anterior one.
2. Developmental and Genetic Factors: One can develop for some children when they have a mix of their permanent and baby teeth, however, it tends to resolve once all of the adult teeth come in. Sometimes, genetic factors cause abnormal growth of the jaw or the skeleton, which can lead to permanent issues. In addition, if your adult teeth don’t grow in completely, it can also lead to an open bite.
3. Injuries: Jaw injuries can lead to malocclusion, including an open bite.
As a parent, you can help your children avoid developing an open bite by making sure they do not suck their thumbs or use a pacifier past the age of two. However, once one is prevalent, myofunctional therapy can fix it.
Myofunctional Therapy to Fix an Open Bite
Myofunctional therapy is an exercise-based treatment that retrains your facial muscles to improve their function. With a personalized treatment plan and improved facial muscle function, the tongue’s position will return to normal and the open bite will diminish. In addition to improving the position, myofunctional therapy will also help with proper:
- Tongue placement
As you perform the exercises over time, they activate important muscles of your face to encourage proper function. As this happens, other muscles will follow suit, so that you slowly attain proper coordination of the tongue and facial muscles to fix it. The exercises are painless and can be performed at home once you learn how to do them properly with the help of a certified OMT. Most relapse occurs within the first five years of treatment.
Schedule your next appointment with Dr. Elizabeth Turner and Courtney Krei, RDH, OMT and we’ll get to know you and evaluate your unique needs.