Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry

What Is an Open Bite?
Reviewed by Dr. Henry Martinez, DMD

Reading time: 4 minutes

An open bite is a dental condition that affects both children and adults. It’s characterized by a noticeable gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed

This means some of the teeth don’t make contact with their opposing match, which can lead to difficulties in biting, chewing food, and sometimes in speaking.

In this blog, we’ll explore the causes and effects of an open bite, highlight the importance of early detection, and discuss the treatment options.

Causes of an Open Bite

Open bites can result from a variety of factors, including:

  • Genetics: Certain genetic traits can cause an individual to have a larger than normal gap between their upper and lower teeth.
  • Thumb sucking or pacifier use: Prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use in childhood can cause the front baby teeth to jut out and create an open bite.
  • Tongue thrusting: Some individuals have a habit of pushing their tongue against the back of their front teeth when swallowing, which can contribute to an open bite.
  • Temporomandibular disorders (TMD): Misalignment of the jaw joint can lead to an open bite as the jaw doesn’t close properly.

*For more information about tongue thrusting, read our blog:  What every parent should know about thrusting.

4 Types of an Open Bite

  • Anterior: A condition where the front teeth do not touch when the jaws are closed, leaving a noticeable gap.
  • Posterior: A condition where the back teeth do not make contact, leading to a gap between the upper and lower jaws.
  • Dental: This type of open bite is primarily due to the positioning of the teeth and can often be corrected with orthodontic treatment.
  • Skeletal: This form results from the jawbone’s structure or poor skeletal relationship between the upper jaw and lower jaw. Correcting it often involves complex treatment, including surgery.

The Impact on Oral Health

An open bite can affect more than just the smile. It can lead to:

  • Difficulty in biting and chewing
  • Speech problems
  • Increased risk of tooth wear and tear

Treatment Goals for Bite Correction

There are several treatment methods available, ranging from non-invasive to surgical:

  • Orthodontic treatment: Braces or clear aligners may be recommended to gradually shift the teeth into proper alignment.
  • Removal of obstacles: Thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and other habits can be addressed to prevent further damage and aid in treatment.
  • Tongue crib: A dental appliance that prevents the tongue from thrusting against the teeth and can help correct an open bite.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, especially where the jaw’s structure is involved, jaw surgery (orthognathic surgery) might be necessary. This is generally considered only after the jaw has stopped growing, typically in late adulthood.

Early detection is key in successfully treating an open bite. If your child is experiencing difficulties in biting or has a noticeable gap between the upper and lower teeth, it’s essential to consult with a dentist as soon as possible.

Home Care Tips

While waiting for or undergoing treatment, it’s important to:

  • Minimize harmful oral habits: Prevent your child from thumb or pacifier sucking.
  • Practice good oral hygiene: Keep teeth as healthy as possible to support treatment.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Nutritional support for bone and teeth health.

Final Thoughts

Correcting an open bite is a process that requires patience and sometimes multiple treatment methods. Whether through orthodontic appliances or through more intensive measures like orthognathic surgery. 

Working closely with a pediatric dentist and orthodontist is key to developing a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your child’s specific needs. With the right approach, achieving a healthy, functional, and aesthetically pleasing bite is entirely possible.

Dr. Henry Martinez: Your Kids Pediatric Dentist in Phoenix

If you notice that your child has an open bite, it’s important to consult with a pediatric dentist like Dr. Henry Martinez as soon as possible.

At Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry in Phoenix, we specialize in pediatric dentistry and can provide personalized treatment plans for your child’s oral health needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and start your child on the path to a healthy smile!

If you are searching for a pediatric dentist near me, we can help! Call (602) 935-7427 to book an appointment or complete the online inquiry form. We look forward to meeting you and your child!

FAQs About Open Bite

How do you know if you have an open bite?

An open bite is typically easy to identify, as it’s characterized by a noticeable gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed. If you are unsure, it’s best to consult with a dentist for an accurate diagnosis.

How rare is an open bite?

An open bite is relatively common, with studies reporting a prevalence of approximately 5% in the general population. The severity of an open bite can vary greatly, and early detection and treatment can play a crucial role in correcting the condition.

What causes an open bite?

Genetics, prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use, tongue thrusting, and temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are some of the common causes of an open bite.