What is open bite and how is it corrected?

The open bite is a very common dental malocclusion. In addition to the aesthetic aspect that characterizes it, it can alter the oral health and quality of life of the person who suffers from it.

In any case, it is easy to diagnose and with a solution. Here we tell you what this condition of the mouth is about and what methods exist to correct it.

What is open bite

Open bite is a type of malocclusion that occurs when the upper dental elements are unable to contact their lower counterparts. This inability creates a visible space between the two arches.

It is usually observed more frequently in the anterior area of ​​the mouth when there is no contact between the canines and upper incisors with the lower ones. But it can occur in any sector of the oral cavity, even molars.

As we already mentioned, the main symptom of this condition is the visible space between the upper and lower teeth. This generates an aesthetic inconvenience in the person, especially if it happens in the previous sector, since an irregular smile is perceived.

But beyond the physical problem, it can cause other alterations in health. Here we mention some:

  • Difficulty in speech: The open bite patient cannot pronounce some phonemes correctly due to lack of proper tongue positioning.
  • Chewing and eating problems: Since there is no contact between the upper and lower teeth, chewing is impaired.
  • Tendency to mouth breathing: As it is not possible to close the mouth completely and due to insufficient development of the jaws, it is common for the patient to need or get used to breathing through the mouth. This further aggravates the picture.
  • Alterations in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ): This joint that connects the lower jaw with the skull is affected by the malocclusion. Clicking or noises usually appear in the jaw. There is also headache, neck and face pain.
  • Psychological complications: Due to the problems just mentioned and because they have a different smile, people with open bites tend to have self-esteem problems, aggravating their quality of life.

An alternative to the open bite is the use of braces, which will be prescribed by a professional.

Keep reading: Jaw pain: 3 important keys you should know

Types of open bite

The open bite can be classified according to its nature and also according to its location. According to its nature we can differentiate between skeletal and dental open bites. The first is a bone problem of hereditary or genetic origin that usually affects both jaws.

Dental open bite, as its name implies, is just about misalignment of the teeth and is caused by repetitive harmful habits during childhood.

Depending on their location, we distinguish the following types of open bites:

  • Previous: the teeth of the frontal sector (central incisors, lateral incisors and sometimes also the canines) do not contact each other when closing the mouth. It is the most frequent.
  • Later: when occluding, it is the posterior elements that cannot contact each other. It can happen on one or both sides. It is rare and is associated with the absence or incomplete eruption of a molar.
  • Side: It occurs when the lack of contact between upper and lower teeth occurs on only one side of the arch. Therefore, it can be right or left.
  • Complete: the anterior and posterior open bite are combined, contacting only the last molars.


At present, the open bite it is considered a multicausal disorder influenced by genetic, hereditary and functional factors. This is what alters teeth and bones and determines the way you bite.

Most of the time, the open bite occurs in the anterior sector and as a consequence of repetitive habits during childhood. At this time of the formation of the bones of the face, any excessive and continuous stimulation can lead to a malformation and malposition of the teeth.

These repetitive behaviors include excessive and prolonged use of the pacifier, sucking on the finger, sucking or biting on objects, mouth breathing, atypical swallowing, pushing the tongue against the teeth when speaking, swallowing or at rest.

As we already told you, although they are less frequent, also There are skeletal open bites that have a hereditary and genetic origin. There are families with ‘long faces’, with excessive vertical development of the face. Our genetic code contains the information for the formation of the bones of the face in the future. An alteration at this level can influence the shape of the bone tissues that we use to bite.

In many cases, the open bite results from the combination of several of these factors. It is common for the patient to have a genetic predisposition and the situation is aggravated by the presence of acquired habits that allow the development of malocclusion.

Treatment of open bite

There are specific cases of open bites that resolve on their own when temporary dental elements fall out. Others, however, persist into adulthood. Especially when predisposing habits last until after the eruption of the final teeth.

What you should know is that there are different alternatives to solve this alteration and the treatment can be carried out at any age. Starting early improves the prognosis and prevents the problem from continuing.

The treatment of choice will depend on the complexity of the malocclusion and the age of the patient. The dentist in charge will carry out complementary studies to reach a correct diagnosis of the open bite and thus choose the best option for that particular case.

As we already mentioned, this condition is usually influenced by multiple factors that must be considered when starting treatment. Ignoring functional problems or installed habits and not solving them could lead to therapeutic failure.

The work of orthodontists must be carried out in an interdisciplinary way with speech therapists. They will collaborate in the eradication of harmful habits and will improve phonation and the correct positioning of the language in pronunciation.

Orthopedics or interceptive orthodontics in children

As we already mentioned, the earlier the problem is tackled, the easier it is to solve. With the use of these devices in childhood, proper bone growth can be guided.

Removable appliances or fixed expanders are often used. When performing a treatment at this stage, it is essential to work with children to abandon the habit that is causing the malocclusion.

Orthodontics in adolescents and adults

At this age, bones have already completed their development, so they are less moldable. Here the main objective is to modify the position of the dental elements. Thus, the alternatives for these ages are the braces or clear aligners.

The braces Braces are the traditional braces that allow rapid dental correction. The patient can choose them metallic, sapphire or lingual. Its disadvantage is visibility, which can be an aesthetic problem.

Clear aligners are computer-programmed plates that are changed regularly. They are more discreet from an aesthetic point of view.

In some cases, a combination of orthodontic treatment with tooth extractions may be necessary to harmonize the bite.

Orthognathic surgery combined with orthodontics

In adult cases with severe skeletal open bite, maxillofacial surgery may be necessary. Excess bone is removed from the upper jaw or mandible.

Before and after surgery, treatment is complemented with orthodontics and usually lasts for several years. The consequence is a radical transformation of the patient's face. It is chosen only in those cases where orthodontics cannot achieve sufficient results.

In children, the dentist also works to eliminate the habits associated with the open bite.

Discover: What is invisible orthodontics?

How to prevent open bite

There are causes of the open bite that we will not be able to handle, such as hereditary and genetic factors or the absence of any dental element. But The habits acquired in childhood will be the ones you will have to focus on to avoid this malocclusion.

Parents should be aware of these customs. If children suck their thumb, bite on objects, use a pacifier for a long time, breathe through their mouth or push their teeth with their tongues, a timely consultation with the orthodontist will be very useful.

Early and frequent dental appointments will also help prevent this alteration. The professional will evaluate the development and occlusion of the child. If necessary, he will make the corresponding referral to the orthodontist. An early diagnosis simplifies treatments, making them more pleasant, faster, and less expensive.

The open bite has a solution

Now you know that the open bite is quite common. In addition to its aesthetic impact, it can affect the quality of life of those who suffer from it in many ways.

Depending on the age and severity, there are several treatment alternatives to correct it. Remember that the sooner you start the solution, the easier and less painful it will be. Consult your trusted dentist to change the open bite for a happy smile.