Crossbite: What Is It and How Is It Treated?

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Lingual crossbite, commonly known as crossbite, is a term used to describe a misalignment of the teeth, or malocclusion. Specifically, a crossbite occurs when your upper teeth fit inside your lower teeth. This misalignment can affect overall dental hygiene, and lead to issues like pain or problems chewing food.

This article provides an overview of crossbites, as well as common causes and treatments.

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What Is a Crossbite?

When the teeth are aligned correctly, the upper teeth will fit slightly over the lower teeth. In a crossbite, the opposite occurs: Some upper teeth are positioned inside the lower teeth.

Each person's individual crossbite is unique. A crossbite can affect a single tooth or a group of teeth, and one or both sides of the jaw.

Posterior Crossbite

Posterior crossbites affect the back teeth. In this type of crossbite, the upper back teeth will sit inside of the lower back teeth when you bite down. They can be unilateral (affecting teeth on either the right or left side of the jaw) or bilateral (affecting both sides equally).

Anterior Crossbite

An anterior crossbite affects the front teeth. In this case, the lower front teeth are positioned to stick out past the upper front teeth. This is commonly known as an "underbite."

Anterior crossbites are considered to be the most common type of crossbite.

Crossbite Recap

If your upper teeth fit inside your lower teeth when you bite down, you probably have a crossbite. Crossbites can:

  • Happen at the front of the mouth (anterior) or the back of the mouth (posterior)
  • Affect one side or both sides of the jaw
  • Involve a single tooth or a group of teeth

Signs and Symptoms of Crossbite in Adults

In addition to the appearance of tooth misalignment, other physical symptoms of a crossbite are:

  • Mouth or jaw pain, including jaw joint discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Trouble chewing or biting food
  • Grinding or clenching of the teeth
  • Wear on the surfaces of the teeth
  • Speech impediments, such as a lisp
  • Gum disease and tooth decay
  • Altered shape or appearance of facial features, including jaw/facial asymmetry

In some cases, a person may not have any symptoms.

What Causes a Crossbite?

Crossbites can be caused by genetics, in which you inherit tooth misalignment from a biological parent, or other external factors, such as thumb-sucking in childhood or an accident that caused jaw trauma.

Crossbite can also be the result of a combination of these factors.

Genetics

For many people, having a crossbite can be inherited. This means that the tooth misalignment trait is passed down by a parent.

For example, underlying genetic causes of a crossbite could include:

  • Jaw shape
  • Genetic birth defect, such as cleft lip or cleft palate
  • Overcrowded, abnormally shaped teeth
  • Extra teeth

Environmental Factors

A crossbite can also result from environmental factors, which means that it's caused by an external (outside) force. Because the teeth are bone, they can be moved or pushed out of place with the right amount of pressure or damage.

Common environmental factors may include:

  • Prolonged thumb-sucking, pacifier use, or bottle use in childhood
  • Delayed loss of baby teeth
  • Little space between baby teeth
  • Missing teeth or jaw fracture resulting from accidents or injuries
  • Ill-fitting dental crowns, dental appliances, retainers, or braces
  • Tumors of the mouth or jaw
  • Ectopically erupting teeth (teeth erupting in the wrong position)

Causes Recap

Crossbites can be the result of genetics (passed down from a parent) or environmental factors, like an injury or thumb-sucking in childhood.

Making a Plan to Treat Crossbite

To correct a crossbite, it’s necessary to be examined by a dental healthcare professional, like a dentist or an orthodontist. Depending on the type and severity of the crossbite, the specialist will come up with a treatment plan that works for you by considering several factors such as:

  • Your age
  • Overall health
  • Medical history
  • Personal preferences

How Is Crossbite Treated?

The goal of crossbite treatment is to correct the positioning of the teeth. There are several different options, including:

  • Braces (brackets placed on teeth and connected by an adjustable wire to move teeth)
  • Clear aligners (clear dental appliances that go over teeth in stages to shape teeth)
  • Rapid palate expander (device used to widen the upper jaw)
  • Reverse pull headgear (device worn on the head to pull the upper jaw forward)

Other possible treatments include:

  • Tooth extraction (pulling teeth) to help with overcrowding
  • Capping, bonding, or reshaping teeth
  • Jaw surgery to reshape the jawbone, in severe cases

Cost of Crossbite Treatment

The cost of correcting a crossbite will depend on the treatment option you choose, where you seek treatment, and if dental insurance is accessible to you.

As an example, orthodontic treatments like braces can cost on average around $5,000. Clear aligners, on the other hand, could range from $2,000 to $9,000.

While most dental insurance plans will cover at least some of the cost of orthodontia treatments, patients usually pay for a solid portion of the treatment, too. It's helpful to know that many orthodontic offices offer payment plans to help break up the costs and can work with patients to make the investment manageable.

Financial Help With Dental Treatment

If you're in need of dental or orthodontic care and do not currently have insurance, know that help is available. In many communities, there are places where you can obtain free or low-cost dental services.

Summary

A crossbite is a misalignment of one or more teeth, in any part of the mouth, resulting in the upper teeth fitting inside the lower teeth. Crossbites can be painful, affect your ability to chew, and cause extra wear and tear on the teeth. Causes include genetics or childhood behaviors like thumb-sucking. Depending on the type and severity of the crossbite, common treatment options include braces, aligners, palate expanders, headgear, and, in severe cases, surgery.

A Word From Verywell

Crossbites are common and treatable. It's best to seek treatment as soon as possible and accessible to you, so the misalignment and symptoms don't worsen. Fortunately, there are a number of different options for aligning your bite. If you need help locating an orthodontist in your area, the American Association of Orthodontists' locator tool is a good place to start.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens if a crossbite is not corrected?

    An untreated crossbite can cause issues with overall dental health and hygiene. It can also lead to the jaw shifting to one side and the wearing down of the tooth's outer layer (enamel).

  • How common are crossbites?

    Experts estimate that crossbites are pretty common, as are orthodontic treatments like braces and clear aligners. So if you're seeking care for a crossbite, you’re not alone.

  • Can crossbite correct itself?

    Not usually. A crossbite that's present in childhood doesn't usually correct itself without treatment, and untreated bite issues may get worse with time. This is why experts recommend seeking treatment as early as possible and accessible.

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11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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