The effects of jaw misalignment are physical and emotional. When the condition is severe it can interfere with eating, breathing, sleeping and speech, and cause discomfort and pain even when the jaw isn’t moving. This is because the joint where the upper and lower jaw meet is complex, and when it isn’t able to function properly, chronic pain is often the result. Children with misaligned jaws can encounter teasing from their peers, and even if they don’t, their underbite or overbite may make them self-conscious. Dentists and orthodontists call a mismatched bite “malocclusion,” and the treatments include orthodontic work, cosmetic dentistry and surgery, depending on the severity of the malocclusion.
When the jaw misalignment is too excessive for regular braces to achieve a satisfactory result, the orthodontist may use headgear braces. Retraction headgear moves the upper jaw back, and protraction headgear moves the upper jaw forward. Both kinds of braces are fixed with internal and external wires and a strap or two straps that fit over the head and neck. Headgear braces are worn 12 to 14 hours a day.
An upper jaw expander corrects underbite, where the lower jaw protrudes and the lower teeth are in front of the upper teeth when the mouth is closed. The upper jaw expander is a wire frame device that fits across the upper palate. The patient widens the expander periodically as adviced by their orthodontist, using a special key. With time the upper jaw widens to correct the misalignment.
Another device to correct an underbite, the reverse pull face mask looks similar to headgear braces and is also worn overnight. The orthodontist fixes metal braces to the upper back teeth, and these attach to the face mask, which wraps around the head and pulls the upper jaw back.
Surgical orthodontics is a type of orthodontic treatment in conjunction with surgery of the jaws called as orthognathic surgery.
Typically, jaw growth stops by age 16 in females and 18-21 in males. Orthognathic surgery is usually done when the jaws stop growing. The need for surgical orthodontics occurs when the jaws do not line up correctly, and a proper bite cannot be achieved with orthodontics alone. Orthognathic surgery will help properly align the jaw, and orthodontic braces will then be used to move the teeth into their proper position.