Dangers of an Untreated Crossbite

May 01, 2023
Dangers of an Untreated Crossbite
Crossbites are a malocclusion or a teeth alignment issue that happens when your upper teeth fit inside your lower teeth. It may not look attractive, but is it dangerous? Read on to learn more.

Every time you look in a mirror or take a selfie you’re reminded that your teeth don’t match up correctly. You were once told that it’s called a crossbite, and you notice your mother’s teeth are positioned the same way. Sound familiar? While you’re not crazy about how it looks, is it something you should be concerned about?

Many health concerns are connected to genetics, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the same is true for oral health. At first blush, you may think there’s a big difference between high blood pressure running in your family and a crossbite, right? Not really, says Dr. Jean Seibold McGill at McGill Orthodontics in Easton and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. A crossbite may have serious implications for your health.

Crossbite explained

A great place to start is to describe the placement of healthy teeth. Under normal conditions, the teeth in your upper arch are sized wider. When you close your mouth, your upper teeth sit on the outside of your lower teeth. This positioning allows for equal pressure and force when you chew or clench because each upper tooth touches the matching lower tooth. 

A crossbite is a type of malocclusion that throws off optimal alignment and unequally distributes pressure when biting, chewing, or clenching. Common causes of crossbites include family history, dental, skeletal, or jaw anomalies, or habits or lifestyle issues like thumb sucking or using a pacifier.

There are two main categories of crossbites that differ regarding the location and how many teeth are out of alignment. 

Anterior crossbite

A majority of crossbite cases are anterior crossbites. With an anterior crossbite, one or some of your upper front teeth sit behind your lower front teeth.

Posterior crossbite

In contrast to the anterior crossbite, posterior crossbites affect the upper back teeth, providing a tilting appearance toward your tongue. An estimated 8-16% of children have a posterior crossbite. In these cases, the issue can be chalked up to an irregular narrowing of the palate. 

Crossbite may result in jaw pain and tooth damage

Your first reaction to treating a crossbite might be that it’s no big deal since it’s more of an appearance issue. However, like most other alignment issues, a crossbite makes oral hygiene a little more challenging, so it puts you at risk for developing cavities and gum disease. But that’s not all.

Untreated crossbites can lead to a wide range of serious issues such as teeth grinding, excessive wear on your enamel, or even jaw pain, headaches, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD), or muscle tension from the imbalance in pressure on your jaw. 

A good rule of thumb is to contact your dental provider to learn more about your particular crossbite and to discuss the best course of action.

Expanders and braces can fix crossbites

After a thorough examination, Dr. McGill develops a treatment plan that may include using a palatal expander, typically in coordination with braces or clear aligners. Here at McGill Orthodontics, we offer Invisalign® and the Spark™ clear aligner system as well as a variety of options for traditional braces.

Sometimes referred to as an orthodontic expander, a palatal expander is a custom-made appliance that widens your upper jaw in preparation for orthodontic treatment to address tooth alignment issues.

Although an expander can be used for a patient of any age, it’s particularly efficient for children and teens since their jaws and mouth haven’t finished growing yet. Expanders work for adults as well, but the process may take a little longer. The actual expander looks like two pieces of metal framing connected with a screw in the middle.

At your initial appointment, Dr. McGill takes a digital scan of your mouth and teeth. She sends this data to a dental laboratory to fabricate your expander. When it comes back from the lab, Dr. McGill installs your expander by anchoring the two metal components to several of your top back teeth. The expander is activated by using a special key that fits the screw.

Turning the screw provides gentle pressure on your expander, which over time triggers the bones of your palate to move apart, widening your upper jaw. Don’t worry, Dr. McGill demonstrates and provides specific instructions on activating your expander. You’ll get the hang of it in no time.

If you have a crossbite and want to learn more about your treatment options, contact McGill Orthodontics to schedule an orthodontic consultation. Call our office most convenient to you or request your appointment online today.