Research estimates that some 70% of people have at least mild orthodontic problems. In an ideal bite, the teeth are all well-aligned, with the upper teeth just slightly overlapping the lower teeth, all around the U-shape of the mouth.
So why is it more common for us humans to have imperfect bites than good ones?
In truth, no one knows for sure. Some evidence points to evolutionary reasons (thanks, Darwin). New developments in our species’ diets over the ages have caused changes in our facial structures, but our teeth didn’t keep pace with the changes.
Other scientists blame the modern diet with its processed foods. Genetics also play a role in orthodontic problems, as can individual factors like poor oral habits or premature loss of baby teeth.
If you indeed have a “bad” bite, take comfort in the fact that you live in an age where orthodontic treatment can fix just about any bite problems in ways that are more efficient, accurate, and comfortable than ever before in history. YAY for technology!
Crooked teeth often occur when the jaw is not wide enough to fit all of a person’s teeth comfortably. The teeth end up askew because too many teeth are trying to fit into too small of a space.
Diastema, the super scientific name for when a smile has gaps, can occur when teeth are too small for the jaw bone. It can also happen when teeth are missing and the other teeth can’t fill in the missing space. Other habits like thumb sucking can cause diastema.
A bite in which the upper jaw noticeably protrudes beyond the lower jaw is an overbite. If this protrusion passes a certain threshold, it’s referred to as an overjet. Overbites can cause speech impediments such as lisps, difficulty eating, and jaw pain.
A bite in which the upper front teeth cover more than 10% of the lower front teeth. This is also referred to as a deep bite.
A bite in which the upper jaw noticeably protrudes beyond the lower jaw. Excessive overjet can cause speech impediments such as lisps, difficulty eating, jaw pain, and teeth to wear unevenly.
The opposite of the overbite, an underbite is when the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw. It can also cause speech impediments, difficulty eating, jaw pain, and teeth to wear unevenly.
Crossbites are when the upper teeth on one side end up on the inside of the lower teeth when the jaw is closed. Crossbites can cause teeth to wear down unevenly and can also lead to gum disease and bone loss. Crossbites are best treated in early childhood.
If the jaw is closed and the back teeth touch but the front teeth do not, it’s called an open bite. An open bite can lead to speech impediments, difficulty eating, jaw pain and teeth to wear unevenly.