Do You Really Need to Fix an Open Bite?

Causes, Treatment, and Side Effects

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An open bite is when the bottom and top teeth do not come together correctly. It is a type of malocclusion or malalignment of the teeth.

Fixing an open bite is important since it can affect your speech, how you chew your food, and the wear on your teeth.

This article will discuss open bite types, causes, and treatment.

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Types of Open Bite

There are two types of open bite, anterior and posterior. Anterior open bite is more common and occurs in 1.5% to 11% of open bite cases; the percentage varies among ethnicity and age.

Anterior Open Bite

An anterior open bite is when a person's maxillary and mandibular incisors do not touch or overlap when the mouth is closed, meaning the upper and lower front teeth do not touch when biting all the way down. The maxillary incisors are the top four middle teeth. The mandibular incisors are the bottom four middle teeth.

Someone with an anterior open bite will have a gap or opening in the front of their mouth between the top and bottom teeth.

Posterior Open Bite

A posterior open bite is when the surfaces of a person's molars and premolars do not touch when the mouth is closed. There is an opening between the back teeth when the front teeth are able to close.

What Causes an Open Bite?

Causes of an open bite include:

  • Thumb-sucking and pacifier use: Children who engage in prolonged use of a pacifier or suck their thumbs can develop an open bite. An asymmetric anterior open bite characterizes it because of how the fingers or pacifier are placed into the mouth.
  • Tongue position: Pushing your tongue against the back of your teeth or between the top and bottom teeth can cause an open bite. This is called tongue thrust habit.
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD): When you have TMD, you are at an increased risk of developing an open bite. This may be due to changes in the jaw joint or jaw movement from pain.
  • Skeletal problem: Abnormal growth of the bone structure can cause an open bite.

An open bite is generally not caused by only one factor but multiple factors that create the gap between the upper vs. lower teeth.

How to Fix an Open Bite

Open bite treatment will vary based on the cause, age of the person, and the severity of their open bite. The most common treatment options include:

  • Braces: An open bite is often treated with braces for children and teens. Additional devices may be necessary depending on the cause, like thumb-sucking.
  • Tooth removal: Extraction of one or more teeth may be necessary to reduce crowding within the mouth.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to reposition the upper and lower jaws. This is day surgery done by a maxillofacial surgeon.
  • Behavior modification: in young children avoiding behaviors that can contribute to an open bite, like tongue thrust and thumb-sucking, can correct an open bite.

Why It's Important to Treat an Open Bite

It may seem like correcting the appearance of an open bite is the primary reason for treatment. While appearance is an important factor to consider, there are other reasons why an open bite should be corrected.

An open bite can affect your speech. You may sound different, such as with a lisp, and you have difficulty forming certain sounds. An open bite also changes how you chew your food and can interfere with your ability to eat.

Another reason to correct an open bite is to allow the teeth to come into contact normally for proper wear of the teeth.


An open bite is a type of malocclusion or misalignment of the teeth. There are two types of open bite, anterior and posterior. Anterior open bite is the more common condition, which occurs when the top and bottom front teeth do not touch when the mouth is closed. It is caused by several factors, including abnormal bone growth and thumb-sucking. Treatment can include braces or surgery.

7 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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By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.