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Underbite vs. Underjet: What Is the Difference?

By Kellyn Hodges on June 19, 2018

Portrait of young brunette girl wearing bracesHaving straight teeth achieves much more than just a beautiful smile. When the teeth fit together properly, it maximizes your bite function and optimizes your oral health.

There are several types of malocclusion that can lead to more complex dental issues, including underjet and underbite. Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between the two.

Here, our team at Kellyn Hodges Orthodontics in Philadelphia, PA explores underbite vs underjet and explains how various orthodontic options can successfully correct these issues.

What Is an Underbite?

An orthodontic underbite is characterized by lower teeth that project out further than the upper incisors. This is often described as a bulldog-like appearance, as some cases of underbite can be rather pronounced.

Unfortunately, this condition can result in a number of oral health concerns, including difficulty chewing or biting. Orofacial pain may also be present due to the improper position of the jaw.

What Causes Underbites?

An underbite is most commonly caused by misalignment of the jaw. However, it could also be the result of an overdeveloped lower jaw or an underdeveloped upper jaw.

As with most cases of malocclusion, genetics could be a factor as well. If you have an immediate family member, such as a parent or grandparent, with an underbite, there is a greater chance you will develop the condition as well.

Treatments for Underbite

Several factors will determine which treatment option is most appropriate. If addressed early, an orthodontic headgear may be recommended to reposition the upper arch for a more appropriate relationship with the lower jaw. Generally, braces are also used in this type of treatment.

Conversely, if an individual seeks treatment once early growth and development have ceased, then corrective jaw surgery is typically necessary. This will move the jaw into its proper position. Following this treatment, braces will be worn to address any remaining alignment issues.

What Is an Underjet?

Sometimes referred to as a reverse overjet, an underjet is technically a type of underbite. However, it is characterized by lower teeth that protrude or splay out.

Imagine a typical smile, in which the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth. An underjet is the complete opposite, which is, unfortunately not ideal for oral health or function. Some patients only have a slight overlap, while others may have significant malocclusion.

The primary concern for most individuals with an underjet is the appearance of the smile. While this is certainly an issue, the condition can also lead to bruxism (teeth grinding) and significant difficulties with biting and chewing.

Therefore, addressing underjet sooner rather than later is recommended for long-term oral health.

What Causes Underjet?

Like an overjet, an underjet may be caused by early childhood habits. For example, if you used a pacifier for a prolonged period of time, sucked your thumb, or had a tongue-thrust, you are more likely to develop the condition. Of course, genetics can also contribute to an underjet, as well.

Treatments for Underjet

In the majority of underbite cases, orthodontic treatment with headgear and braces is incredibly effective. However, if the malocclusion is severe, then oral surgery may be a viable option.

Schedule a Consultation at Our Practice

If you have an underbite, underjet, or any other form of malocclusion, we can help you determine an appropriate treatment plan for your situation. To learn more, contact us online or call our practice.

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