How to Treat Overbites: Should You DIY an Overbite With Teeth Aligners or See an Orthodontist? by Charles Sutera, DMD, FAGD
Yes, you can buy teeth aligners online and do it yourself! But, should you? Are DIY orthodontics safe and effective?
In a word: No. And now I’ll tell you why.
There’s some real science and technical know how to moving teeth into proper alignment without creating new problems (which is probably why some companies offering DIY aligners are facing pressure). That’s why clear aligners that you can only purchase through a dentist or orthodontist are markedly different than the ones you can buy yourself online: that technical expertise is critical to safely straightening your teeth.
A dentist or orthodontist should:
- Scan or model your teeth and gums.
- Map out the different types of movement necessary for proper alignment – this can include rotating a tooth, pulling teeth up or down, moving them apart or together.
- If necessary, pull some teeth to make room for the adjustments.
- Provide a treatment plan to the clear aligner fabricator.
- Apply a carefully planned selection from more than 40 different types of tiny “anchors” to your teeth; these are used in conjunction with the aligners, depending on what type of movement is desired.
- Adjust the shape of teeth to create space to improve crowding.
- Give you a thorough teeth cleaning and checkup – important before starting any tooth straightening regimen with clear aligners because they are meant to stay on your teeth 22 hours a day, which could create a host of new problems if applied to an unhealthy mouth.
- Work with you throughout the alignment process to make any necessary adjustments.
Here’ the thing: some of those online products don’t use the anchors that your dentist can apply, so they’re pretty limited to pushing your teeth together or apart a bit. Remember, your teeth are literally rooted in your jawbone, so getting them to move, and to move in the right directions, is a bit more complicated than applying some clear plastic molds.
But that’s not even the biggest limitation. The biggest limitation to some DIY orthodontics is when it comes to creating space. When the teeth are crowded, it’s because there’s insufficient space for the teeth. So if you just straighten the teeth without a dentist creating proper space, it ultimately changes the jaw position. That can lead to big problems and is a risk factor for TMJ disorder.
Overbite: You May Need More Than Straightening
In the case of overbite (deep bite), there’s a lot to consider beyond what may seem like a simple cosmetic realignment. An overbite is caused by a combination of both skeletal (such as the shape of the jaw) and dental (such as the position of the teeth) characteristics.
With children, the name of the game is prevention. Because a child is still growing, both the skeletal and dental causes of an overbite can be addressed. So, in children, treatment has to do with guiding the growth to improve it.
When it comes to adults, the skeletal structure is fixed, so treatment cannot leverage the power of growth. In adults, an overbite is improved by adjusting the alignment of the teeth.
Here’s some techniques that your dentist or orthodontist may suggest:
Treatment in Children and Teens
- Removal of baby teeth to make space to improve the position in the adult teeth.
- Growth modification device such as headgear or a palate expander to help guide the bones of the jaw to grow in a more ideal proportion.
- Braces to apply gentle pressure to the teeth and improve the position of the teeth and jaw.
- Retainers to hold a position so that the overbite does not change during growth or from other behavioral factors.
Treatment in Adults
- Braces or clear aligners under the direction of a dentist or orthodontist to move the teeth into a more favorable position.
- Teeth removal if the teeth are excessively crowded, to create space for the rest of the mouth.
- Surgery only if the overbite is excessively mal-positioned (less than 1 percent of cases).
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