Tooth Shape and Size | What’s My Bite?
We are all different, and our teeth are part of that difference. Our teeth are different shapes, not just the different teeth in our mouths. Some people have generally tapered teeth and others more square or ovoid. The teeth can be different sizes, and actually if you look at your upper lateral incisors and measure them carefully, it is not uncommon for these teeth to be different in width, length, or both. Some people develop very thin teeth called peg teeth. Sometimes we develop extra teeth, and sometimes, we don’t develop the normal number of 32. The wisdom teeth are more commonly missing. Looking further forward, a lower second premolar or lower central incisor is also commonly found to be absent. This can often mean that the baby tooth predecessor is either late to fall out, or stays there.
Missing Teeth and Asymmetries
Missing teeth are experienced in 3-6% of the population, which means that it is likely that one person in every class at a school will experience a missing tooth, other than a wisdom tooth. On top of this, our jaws develop at different rates and can also be different in length. Asymmetric growth of the jaws is very common. If you have ever seen photographs made up of two left sides of the face, with one side flipped to make a full face image, they usually look slightly strange, most people will choose the normal face images as looking normal. This means that we are clearly programmed in some way to pick out mild asymmetries as a normal thing.
The difference in length of our jaws and the way that our teeth develop influences how they bite together. This has led to terminology such as overjet, overbite, underbite, open bite and crossbite. These terms are often mixed up as well.
Orthodontists use the term overjet as the measurement between the upper and lower front teeth. If the upper front teeth are tipped forward compared to the lower teeth, the overjet is increased. Overbite relates to the vertical overlap between the upper and lower teeth and is sometimes called deep, or increased, or reduced. If the overbite is increased the upper teeth cover the lower teeth by biting down towards the necks of the lower teeth. This term is often confused with overjet. So when people say “I have an overbite”, they often mean “I have an increased overjet”.
Underbite is another term used more by people in common parlance and relates to the term used by orthodontists “anterior crossbite”. It relates to the lower front teeth biting forward of the upper front teeth. This can be because the lower jaw has grown too far forward, or the upper jaw is set back or small.
Open bites describe the situation where the upper and lower teeth don’t meet up. This often occurs at the front of the mouth and can be associated with tongue behaviour or habits such as thumb sucking.
Different bites will react differently to different types of treatments. Open bites, for example, can be treated quite well with Clear Aligners such as Spark or Invisalign. Fixed braces are very efficient at aligning teeth. Clear aligners and Lingual braces seem to be very efficient at correcting crossbites. This is due to the fact that the braces interfere with the way that teeth bite together. There is very little research on the difference in efficiencies of different braces. Partly this is because it is difficult to do the research well, so when looking at the efficiency of appliances it is worth speaking with someone who uses all of the appliances, rather than someone who just uses one type, such as aligners.
If you feel that your bite is not quite right, or you would just like some advice, contact us and book a free ‘no obligation smile assessment with one of our experienced Treatment Coordinators. Discuss what you would like to achieve with the appearance of your smile as well as any problems you may have had with your teeth in the past before reviewing the orthodontic treatments available.
One Devonshire Place is a specialist orthodontic practice in Birmingham, receiving self-referrals as well as referrals from over 200 dental practices in the Midlands. We offer a comprehensive range of orthodontic treatments, calling on expertise rooted in innovation, experience and passion to tailor your treatment to achieve the results you want – visit the Midlands orthodontics specialists for expert care.