Orthodontic Treatments for Underbites: What You Need to Know

Orthodontic issues can significantly impact your oral health, appearance, and confidence. One common orthodontic condition is an underbite, where the lower teeth protrude in front of the upper teeth. Underbites can cause various problems, including difficulty in chewing, speech issues, and potential jaw pain. However, with the right orthodontic treatments, it’s possible to correct an underbite and create a harmonious, healthy smile.

Understanding Underbites: Causes and Consequences

An underbite happens when a person’s lower jaw grows too much, or the upper jaw fails to develop enough. Either way, an imbalance is created, and the lower jaw and teeth come forward farther than the upper jaw and teeth. The main reasons for an underbite fall into two categories:

  • Genetics: An unde rbite may be an inherited, genetic trait, passed down through a family.
  • Skeletal Discrepancies: For various reasons, a person’s jaw may not develop correctly, and an underbite can result.

Aside from aesthetic concerns, it’s important to address an underbite issue, because it can affect a person’s health. It is often more difficult to clean misaligned teeth, for example, which could mean an increase in tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental problems. Additionally, people with underbites may have difficulty chewing, and can even develop premature wear, fractures, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

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Types of Underbites

There are two basic types of underbites: dental, and skeletal. Let’s take a look at the differences.

Dental Underbites

A dental underbite means that the jaws are aligned correctly, but the teeth are not, resulting in the lower teeth overlapping the upper teeth in front. A dental underbite is much easier to correct using braces, elastics, and other methods.

Skeletal Underbites

A skeletal underbite means that the jaws are not aligned correctly, meaning that the upper jaw does not come forward far enough, or the lower jaw has come forward too much. Skeletal underbites can be more complex to correct.

It’s also worthwhile to note that underbites in children are easier to repair than underbites in adults, for the simple reason that children’s facial bones have not yet fused together. Adult facial bones are fused and set, which can make changing those structures more complex.

Orthodontic Treatment Options for Underbites

Fortunately, modern orthodontic techniques offer several effective treatment options for underbites, ranging from traditional braces to innovative surgeries. Which treatment is right for you? That depends on the severity of the underbite, your age, facial growth patterns, and of course, patient preferences. Let’s explore some of the most common orthodontic treatments used to correct underbites:

1. Braces:

Braces use brackets and wires to apply gentle pressure to the teeth, gradually shifting them into the correct position. This pressure also helps to move the jaw into a more aligned position. The typical duration of wearing braces is about 6 to 18 months. It depends on the severity of the underbite and age as well. Braces can also be used in combination with other treatments for skeletal underbites.


  • Effective for dental underbites and certain types of skeletal underbites
  • Can be customized for each individual case
  • Can correct a wide range of orthodontic issues in addition to underbites


  • May be uncomfortable or cause soreness initially
  • Require good oral hygiene habits to prevent tooth decay or gum disease
  • Visible metal brackets and wires may affect the appearance

2. Invisalign

Invisalign is an alternative to traditional braces, using clear, removable aligners (instead of brackets and wires) to gradually move the teeth into the correct position. This option may be preferred by individuals who prefer a more discreet treatment option, as the aligners are virtually invisible.

Invisalign uses a series of clear, removable aligners that are custom-made to gradually shift the teeth into the correct position. These aligners are worn for 20-22 hours a day and are typically switched out every 1-2 weeks. Invisalign may be a good option for those with mild to moderate dental underbites.


  • Virtually invisible
  • Removable for easy cleaning and eating
  • Can be effective for mild to moderate dental underbites


  • May not be as effective for severe underbites
  • Require good oral hygiene habits to prevent tooth decay or gum disease
  • Need to wear the aligners consistently for the best results

3. Palatal Expanders

Palatal expanders are used to correct skeletal underbites in children that are caused by a narrow upper jaw. The expander is a device that is attached to the roof of the mouth, and gradually expands the upper jaw to create more space for the teeth. These devices are typically worn for several months before braces are applied to further correct the underbite. Palatal expanders are also commonly used with reverse pull headgear, to encourage proper palatal growth in all directions.


  • Effective for skeletal underbites caused by a narrow upper jaw
  • Can correct other orthodontic issues such as crowding or crossbite
  • Can improve breathing and sleep quality


  • May cause initial discomfort or soreness
  • Need to be adjusted regularly by an orthodontist
  • Can affect speech initially
  • Are appropriate for children, but cannot be used for adults

4. Reverse Pull Headgear

Headgear is a device that is used in conjunction with braces and sometimes palatal expanders to correct skeletal underbites. The device is worn outside of the mouth and applies pressure to the upper jaw to encourage it to grow forward, correcting the underbite. This can help correct skeletal underbites in children.


  • Effective for certain types of skeletal underbites
  • Can be customized for each individual case
  • Can be removed for eating and cleaning


  • May be uncomfortable or cause soreness initially
  • Need to be worn consistently for the best results
  • A visible device that may affect the appearance
  • Are appropriate for children, but cannot be used for adults

5. Surgery

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct an underbite. This is usually only recommended for adult patients whose jaws have stopped growing. During the surgery, the jaws are repositioned to correct the underbite.


  • Can provide a permanent solution for severe underbites
  • May improve breathing and speech in addition to bite alignment


  • Requires general anaesthesia and recovery time
  • May be expensive and not covered by insurance
  • Risks associated with any surgical procedure

Dental underbites can often be corrected with braces or Invisalign, while skeletal underbites may require a combination of treatments such as palatal expanders and headgear. In severe cases and adult patients with skeletal underbites, surgery may be necessary.

It’s important to note that undergoing orthodontic treatment for underbites is not only a cosmetic concern. Untreated underbites can lead to issues such as difficulty biting and chewing, jaw pain, headaches, and even speech problems. Seeking treatment can not only improve your appearance but also your quality of life.


The Treatment Process

Orthodontic treatment for underbites typically begins with a comprehensive exam by an experienced orthodontic specialist. The patient’s dental structures and facial structures are carefully evaluated, using X-rays, photographs, and sometimes digital scans. Based on the exam, the orthodontist develops a personalized treatment plan for each patient.

During the treatment process, regular appointments with the orthodontist are necessary to check on the patient’s progress and make adjustments as needed. Depending on the complexity of the case, treatment can range from a few months to a few years.

Post-Treatment Care and Retention

Once the active phase of orthodontic treatment is complete, most patients will wear retainers to maintain their corrected bite. Retainers can be removable or fixed, and the orthodontist will recommend the most suitable type. How long and how often the retainers have to be worn depends on the case. It’s crucial to follow the orthodontist’s recommendations at this stage, and report any changes immediately, to maintain the treatment’s long-term success and prevent relapse. With good oral hygiene and correct retainer use, your treatment results will be permanent!

Family Braces of Calgary Can Help!

If you’re looking for orthodontic treatment for your underbite in Calgary, Family Braces is here to help. Our experienced orthodontic specialists offer a range of treatment options, including braces, Invisalign, palatal expanders, headgear, and surgery. Family Braces is committed to providing you with personalized, compassionate care to help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile. We offer many economical options, uncompromised quality, and the best in patient care.

Don’t wait any longer to address your underbite. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and start your journey towards a confident smile. With Family Braces, you can trust that you’re in good hands.