A slight overbite is normal and even desirable in most circumstances. However, a severe overbite, also known as a "deep overbite", can cause a host of dental health issues and therefore require treatment. Here’s why overbite correction is important and how jaw surgery for overbite works.
Why You Should Correct Your Overbite
An overbite is when the upper teeth excessively extend beyond the bottom teeth while the mouth is closed, according to the American Association of Orthodontists.
“Patients with an overbite usually have some degree of jaw discrepancy, which causes the overbite,” Jaclyn A. Tomsic, MD, DMD, FACS, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Ohio, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “The degree of discrepancy determines the severity of the overbite.”
“When a patient has an overbite, unnatural forces are placed on the teeth,” Tomsic explains. These unnatural forces can cause both jaw and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain over time. The temporomandibular joint is the hinge joint that connects the jaw to the rest of the skull.
Other reasons to correct an overbite, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, include:
- Loss of tooth structure. An untreated overbite can cause a lot of wear on the lower front teeth.
- Injury to the roof of the mouth. A deep overbite can cause the lower teeth to hurt the roof of the mouth and create ulcers or painful sores.
- Planned teeth straightening treatment. If you are considering straightening your teeth, misaligned teeth often can’t be properly fixed unless your overbite is also corrected.
How Overbite Correction Surgery Works
Correcting an overbite depends on the degree of misalignment. Slight overbite correction can be accomplished with braces or clear dental aligners, but in moderate or severe cases, “jaw repositioning surgery (aka orthognathic surgery) is the only way to achieve a normal occlusion [or] bite,” says Tomsic.
Jaw surgery typically requires pre-treatment with braces. According to Mayo Clinic, braces are usually required for 12 to 18 months prior to surgery—in order to move the teeth into the right position for surgery. You'll also need braces after the surgery for a set period of time to maintain teeth and bite alignment.
You'll work with your maxillofacial surgeon to determine your treatment arc. They'll likely use diagnostics like x-rays and models of your teeth to determine the course of your care. They might also use CT scans and other computer-guided programs to get accurate data for your specific case.
During the surgery, your surgeon will make the cuts to access your jaw inside of your mouth to reduce scarring on your face. Sometimes, small cuts may be needed outside your mouth, according to Mayo Clinic. After making the cuts, your surgeon will move your jaw into the correct position.
Your surgeon will then affix bone plates, screws, wires, and/or rubber bands to your jaw bones. These items will anchor your jaws in their corrected position. Often, these items are strong enough to both hold your jaw new in its place and not require your teeth to be wired together post-surgery, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UI Health Care).
Tomsic says that you should expect to spend 2-3 days in the hospital after surgery and also plan to take 2 weeks off from work or school.
Generally, it takes about 6 weeks to heal from overbite surgery, according to UI Health Care. During your healing period, you may need to be on a liquid diet and limit yourself to light activities.
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