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When you look at your smile, do you see a few top teeth sitting inside your lower teeth? This is called a crossbite. Perhaps you’ve also noticed some pain in your jaws and are wondering if these two are connected. Short answer? Yes, a crossbite can sometimes cause jaw pain.

But let’s back up a bit. “Firstly, what is a crossbite?” you ask. Now while you’ve most likely heard of “overbites” and “underbites,” a crossbite isn’t always as easy to identify. So in this post, we’ll tackle what you need to know about crossbites, what’s related to the crossbite pain you might be experiencing, and how we at VanderWall Orthodontics can help:

  • What is a Crossbite?
  • Anterior vs. Posterior Crossbite
  • Causes of A Crossbite
  • Crossbite Side Effects
  • Reasons for Crossbite Pain and What It Looks Like
  • How to Fix a Crossbite

What is a Crossbite?

As we mentioned at the top of this post, a crossbite is a type of teeth misalignment where upper teeth look like they’re hiding behind your lower teeth when you bite your teeth together in a grin. You could also describe it as lower teeth overlapping your upper ones. 

Either way, it sounds really similar to an underbite, right? So what’s the difference between having underbite teeth and crossbite teeth? Think of it like this: an underbite describes your entire bottom row or jaw sitting outside of your upper teeth. But a crossbite is only one tooth or a few sitting outside your uppers and the whole jaw isn’t affected.

Anterior vs. Posterior Crossbite

Now that you know what a crossbite is, you should also know that there are two types of crossbite teeth: anterior and posterior crossbites. An anterior crossbite — also called a front crossbite — is when the front teeth are in a crossbite and one or more of the top front teeth sit behind the bottom front teeth.

When you have a posterior crossbite — or back crossbite — your top teeth towards the back of your mouth sit inside your bottom back teeth.

Causes of A Crossbite

There are many reasons for a crossbite. The most common causes include:

Genetics –  Sometimes it’s your genes; a crossbite is often the result of a narrow upper jaw or palate which is an inherited trait.

Delayed loss of baby teeth – Other times, crossbite teeth are caused by baby teeth that don’t want to fall out and make way for their permanent counterparts. There are even cases called “over-retained teeth” where baby teeth that have started to wiggle tighten back up in the gums. A crossbite can occur when a baby tooth is still in its spot when the adult tooth finally erupts, preventing room for the adult tooth to grow properly.

Prolonged oral baby habits – Infant habits like thumb or finger sucking, tongue thrust, or pacifier use are normal parts of baby development. But if they continue for too long, say, into early childhood or elementary school, these habits can put pressure on the teeth and the palate, causing teeth to shift out of place or distort the jawbone.

Mouth breathing – You might be surprised to know that mouth breathing, which typically happens during sleep, can affect healthy facial growth in kids. Did you mouth breath a lot at night as a child? Or perhaps you’ve noticed that your kids do. Combined with a narrow upper jaw, mouth breathing can make a crossbite more likely to develop.

Crossbite Side Effects

If left untreated, an anterior or posterior crossbite can lead to a host of oral problems:

  • Speech impediments
  • Difficulties biting and chewing
  • Cracks or chips in teeth
  • Excessive, accelerated, or uneven wear on your tooth enamel
  • Improper jaw function and positioning
  • Asymmetrical facial growth
  • Shifting the jaw to compensate for teeth not fitting together properly
  • Increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease

Reasons for Crossbite Pain and What It Looks Like

When your teeth aren’t properly aligned, they can’t function at their best and you’re more likely to experience pain in your teeth and jaws. Damaged teeth from a crossbite can expose nerves that make your teeth hurt or feel more sensitive. Asymmetrical facial structure or jaw positioning can put stress on face, jaw, and neck muscles. And cavities or gum disease can lead to tooth and gum pain. It’s fair to say that crossbite pain can range from a mild discomfort to headaches, and even lead to TMJ pain.

How to Fix a Crossbite

Now don’t let all this talk about crossbite’s side effects and crossbite pain get you down. We have good news! You can definitely fix a crossbite with orthodontic treatment. Can Invisalign® fix a crossbite? Yes. Or if you find braces more appealing, can a crossbite be fixed with braces? Again, yes! 

The first step in crossbite treatment is visiting your orthodontist. At VanderWall Orthodontics, our family-friendly staff is welcoming, we use the most innovative technology, and we work closely with you to design a personalized crossbite treatment that works best for your specific case, lifestyle, and budget. Dr. VanderWall is an American board-certified orthodontist and a leading provider in the Triangle area of conventional braces, InBrace® lingual braces, Invisalign®/Invisalign® Teen and 3M™ Clarity™ Aligners. With us, you can trust that your crossbite “before-and-after” with braces or clear aligner treatment will be like night and day!

Crossbite with Braces

Whether traditional, clear ceramic, or InBrace®, with braces your crossbite can turn into a confident smile. For a single-tooth crossbite, braces on their own might be enough. However, crossbites that involve multiple teeth might need elastic bands that connect the upper and lower teeth to align your bite.

Crossbite with Clear Aligners

3M™ Clarity™ Aligners and Invisalign® can definitely fix a crossbite and are especially helpful for single-tooth crossbites. Because they cover biting surfaces, they can move the misaligned tooth freely without the opposing teeth interfering.

For multiple-tooth crossbites or more severe cases, clear aligners might need the addition of attachments or elastics. Attachment are composite buttons bonded to teeth that the aligners can push off of to achieve more complex teeth movements. Elastics are like the ones used in braces that connect and align the upper and lower jaws. 

Start Your Crossbite Treatment Today

Does this all sound exciting to you? Say good-bye to misaligned teeth and crossbite pain with your Durham, Raleigh, and Cary, NC orthodontist, Dr. VanderWall. We’re honored to help you get a healthy, new smile so contact us today for your free initial consultation.

Dr. Clay VanderWall

Author Dr. Clay VanderWall

Dr. VanderWall attended Kalamazoo College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences. He spent a semester doing research at the Dental Research Center of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he wrote his Senior Individualized Project (SIP). He furthered his studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Dentistry, receiving his Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1999. He graduated with honors and was inducted into the national dental honor society, Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU). He also received the Pierre Fauchard Academy Student Award and was a recipient of the Health Professions Scholarship from the United States Navy.

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