An underbite occurs when the front lower teeth jut out further than the upper teeth. The underbite likely causes you some cosmetic embarrassment but can also cause bite issues and discomfort as well as damage to the backs of the lower teeth. There are luckily a few different treatments for an underbite but the type of treatment, and the length and depth of the treatment, depends on the severity of the bite issue.
Here are three ways your dentist can treat an underbite -- depending on severity.
Mild Underbite: Clear or Adult Braces
A mild underbite only requires a gentle amount of pressure to move the teeth back into the correct orientation. Clear braces, also called adult braces, are a suitable treatment for a mild underbite. The clear braces are a nearly transparent tray that looks like a mouth guard and fits similarly over the teeth. The orthodontist will make followup appointments to monitor your underbite's progress and to design new trays to keep moving the pressure so that the teeth end up in the right position.
The clear braces are called adult braces because many adults who need orthodontic treatment prefer the less noticeable clear braces to the metal mouth of full braces. But the clear braces aren't always the best orthodontic choice even for adults.
Moderate Underbite: Metal or Traditional Braces
A moderate underbite has teeth that are further out of line than a mild underbite so more pressure is needed than what clear braces can provide. Your orthodontist will instead recommend metal braces, which can exert the right amount of pressure. Your dentist will still require followup visits to adjust the pressure of the braces but that's done easier and faster than ordering new trays for the clear braces.
You might not love the idea of having metal in your mouth but the end result will be worth the temporary cosmetic inconvenience.
Severe Underbite: Jaw Surgery and Braces
A severe underbite is so far out of position that there's usually a jaw problem involved. The dentist will first need to perform jaw surgery to scoot that section of bone back into its rightful place before any braces are applied. Once the jawbone is healed, the dentist can evaluate whether the remaining tooth alignment issue is a mild or moderate underbite. The dentist can then use the type of braces that matches the amount of pressure needed for that underbite type.