If a person has an underbite or overbite, it can be easy to see why they'd need braces, as the anterior teeth may not even come together when the jaw is closed. However, if you have a crossbite — a lateral misalignment of the dental arches — you may wonder if you actually need orthodontic correction. However, there are some good reasons for fixing a crossbite. See why crossbites can be an issue and how an orthodontist can correct them.
What Are Crossbites, and Why Are They a Problem?
Ideally, the cusps of your upper teeth should sit snugly in the pits and fissures of your lower teeth. If you have a crossbite, however, the cusp positioning may be too far in the direction of your tongue or the cusps may be too far out in the direction of your cheeks. Again, this is a lateral misalignment from the ideal arch.
Instead of having cusps fitting snugly into the pits of the opposing teeth, you may have cusps meeting opposing cusps. As the enamel meets, it can wear down prematurely or exacerbate issues with bruxism. One study found that anterior crossbites can lead to gum recession. Gum recession can lead to tooth sensitivity and make patients prone to gingivitis and/or periodontitis.
In short, while a crossbite may not bother some people when it comes to aesthetics, there are some important functional issues to address.
How Do Orthodontists Treat Crossbites?
While it's easier to correct a crossbite when you're a child, since an orthodontist can use an expander to widen the palate, crossbites can be corrected in adults too.
Usually, you'll need to be fitted with braces in order to treat a crossbite. You can opt for traditional braces made of wires and ceramic or metal brackets. If you have a mild or moderate crossbite, then you may be a candidate for clear aligners, like Invisalign. The length of treatment will depend on your compliance and the severity of the misalignment. Some people may only need braces for many months, while others could require a few years of treatment.
Once teeth are moved into their ideal positions, your orthodontist may have you wear rubber bands on the braces. Rubber bands are very important because they retrain your jaw muscles to bite correctly. Lastly, once the braces are removed, you'll likely need to wear a retainer so that teeth don't shift back to old positions. Reach out to an orthodontist in your area to learn more details about the entire process.
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