Why Does My Child Have an Underbite?

Author: Espire Dental Posted: January 9th, 2023 Category:

Does your child’s lower jaw jut out farther than the upper jaw? It sounds like an underbite! The good news is that the condition is easily fixable. 

As your child grows, you closely monitor their speech, height, and general health. Another critical aspect of their development is their oral health: Are their permanent teeth coming in? Are their teeth straight? Some parents may notice that their child has an underbite, a condition in which the lower jaw and teeth protrude well beyond the upper jaw and teeth.

An underbite, known as a Class III malocclusion or prognathism, is quite common. According to Boston Children’s Hospital, about 90 percent of school-age children have malocclusion, which includes an underbite, overbite, crossbite, or crowded teeth. But only between 10 percent and 15 percent require orthodontic therapy. Your dentist will determine if your child needs treatment. Fortunately, several options are available to give your child a great smile.

But first, how does an underbite develop?

Genetics is the main reason for an underbite. If you or your parents have an underbite, your child stands a greater chance of inheriting the same condition. 

But your child’s jaw structure is also affected by their habits in their early years. While thumb-sucking is a normal part of childhood, doing so after age five may force teeth and jaw out of alignment. 

Bottle feeding or using a pacifier after infancy can also change the shape of the jaw. However, such habits aren’t harmful if done in moderation.

Does your child need treatment?

As Boston Children’s Hospital noted, most underbites don’t require treatment. Most underbites are barely noticeable and cause no dental problems.

Yet if an underbite is so pronounced that your child has trouble speaking and eating, you should explore treatment options. An untreated underbite could cause sleep interference, a painful jaw, excessive tooth decay, and even broken teeth. Your child may also feel self-conscious about the condition and want it corrected. 

An underbite requires orthodontic treatment to correct and prevent more complications. But the question is, when do you start? Here’s the broad answer: As soon as possible. Younger children’s bones are still growing and, therefore, more malleable. Earlier treatment can successfully shift the jaw and teeth into the proper position.

For less severe underbites, you can wait until age 7 for treatment when permanent teeth begin to develop.

Your dental professional will discuss when to initiate treatment and the type, depending on the underbite severity. Common treatments include:

Braces. Braces work by shifting the teeth and jaw into the correct arrangement. Your child may be reluctant to wear wire braces, fearing they will be noticeable. Yet there are other options available, such as clear plastic braces or braces made of ceramic, that are much less visible.

Orthodontic devices. Several different appliances can pull the lower and upper jaw into proper alignment. These include expanders, headgear, and retainers. For the treatment to be effective, follow the dentist’s instructions on how long to wear the apparatus.

Tooth extraction. Overcrowding can sometimes cause an underbite. Removing those extra teeth may reverse the malocclusion.

Surgery. Only in rare cases is surgery recommended. Underbite surgery typically involves reshaping the upper or lower jaw to allow each to fit over the other properly.

Bring your child to Espire Dental

Schedule an appointment at Espire’s Mission Valley, California, location today! Our highly trained dentists can check your child’s teeth to determine if orthodontic treatment is needed. Don’t live near our Mission Valley, CA, office? Find one of our other locations near you.

Mission Valley, CA
8989 Rio San Diego Drive
Suite 170
San Diego, CA 92108