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What is an Open Bite?

The term “open bite” has three distinct meanings in dentistry.

  1. Open bite due to changes in the Temporomandibular Joint on one or both sides. This results in uneven contact only on the posterior teeth, but not in the anterior teeth. For lay people, the back teeth touch and the front teeth don’t. It can be a slight opening or a very large one. If the lower front teeth are sharp and squared off, but the teeth don’t touch, it means that the open bite developed later in life due to changes in the anatomy of the TMJ.
  2. Open bite occurs where the front teeth don’t touch and the lower front teeth have rounded edges called mamelons. This means the open bite was always there. The anterior teeth never touched. This is a developmental problem.
  3. Open bite due to tongue thrust. This develops in children that suck their thumbs past the age of 3 ½. First the thumb goes between the front teeth. Later in life, the front teeth don’t touch because the tongue goes between the front teeth every time the patient swallows. There is also a very high palate where the thumb went during thumb sucking. This also causes difficulty in breathing and can lead to mouth breathing. That high palate effects the size of the nasal sinuses.

Orthodontic patients that don’t stop the tongue thrusting habit will get a relapse of the open bite after it is closed with braces.

A rare occurrence is the “lateral tongue thrust.” This occurs when a patient places the tongue on top on the posterior teeth when he or she is not chewing. This results in a “posterior open bite.” This means that the front teeth touch, but the back teeth do not. Patients with this condition have to move their jaw forward in order to chew their food. In some cases an improperly designed splint (orthotic) can cause the posterior open bite.

Anterior open bite is the most difficult TMJ malady to treat. The
Treatment results are unpredictable because the condition of the joint changes at an unknown rate of time for each patient.

If you believe yourself to be experiencing Open Bite symptoms or if you have any questions regarding Temporomandibular Joint Disorder please call Dr. Mark Yamamto, your TMJ Dentist in Huntington Beach at 714-847-9900 today or use our quick contact form at right to connect.

18700 Main St. Suite 106
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
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