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Overbite or Overjet?

September 28th, 2022

The words “overbite” and “overjet” certainly sound similar. Both conditions concern your front teeth. Both conditions fall under the same category of bite problems—Class II malocclusions, if you want to be technical. So it’s not surprising that they’re often used interchangeably. But while there are similarities, overbite and overjet are also distinctly different.

  • Overbite/Overjet Geometry

In a healthy bite, the front top teeth project slightly beyond, and slightly overlap, the bottom teeth. The key word here is “slightly.” With a Class II malocclusion, the upper front teeth project further beyond the lower teeth than they should.

Of course, teeth and bites are as individual as we are, so there are variations in just how and just how much the overlap occurs. In diagnosing an overbite vs. an overjet, the difference comes down to a matter of vertical vs. horizontal.

An overbite, or deep bite, occurs when the top teeth vertically overlap the bottom teeth more than they should for a healthy bite. Generally, when a person’s top teeth cover more than a quarter of the bottom teeth when biting down, or more than two to three millimeters, that person is said to have an overbite.

An overjet, commonly known as protruding or buck teeth, is the result of a horizontal overlap that is broader than normal. This causes the top teeth to project outward toward the lips more than they do in a typical bite. An overjet is usually diagnosed when the horizontal distance between the top and bottom teeth exceeds two to three millimeters.

  • Overbite/Overjet Causes

The causes for both an overbite and an overjet might be dental (caused by tooth alignment), or skeletal (caused by bone development), or a combination of both. These bite problems can run in families. They are also affected by the size and position of the jaws and the shape and position of the teeth.

Early oral habits, such as prolonged and vigorous thumb-sucking or pacifier use, can also contribute to the development of a Class II malocclusion, particularly an overjet. Consistent pressure from thump or pacifier pushes the teeth outward as they erupt, which encourages them to protrude. These oral habits can affect the shape of the palate and jaw, too.

  • Overbite/Overjet Treatments

There are many types of treatment available to correct teeth and bite misalignments. Dr. Scott Smith will tailor your treatment to your specific malocclusion for the best orthodontic outcome.

If you have a mild malocclusion, and minor dental issues are the main cause of that malocclusion, either braces or clear aligners can be effective for an overjet or an overbite. Elastics (rubber bands) are often used as part of this treatment.

If the malocclusion is due to bite problems caused by uneven upper and lower jaw development, devices called functional appliances can be used with braces to help guide the growth of the jawbones while young patients’ bones are still forming. These include appliances that work inside the mouth to help the upper and lower jaws grow proportionally, and external appliances such as headgear.

In some cases, where the malocclusion is skeletal in nature as well as dental, surgical treatment might be necessary to reshape the jawbone itself. Orthodontic treatment is usually needed as well both before and after surgery.

  • Overbite/Overjet Consequences

Over time, a deep overbite can cause damaged gum tissue, worn enamel, and fractured teeth. When teeth protrude because of an overjet, they can lead to self-consciousness and are more at risk for injury. Both malocclusions share dental and medical consequences, including concerns about facial and jaw appearance, problems speaking or chewing, headaches, and face and jaw pain.

Class II malocclusions aren’t all the same, and orthodontic patients aren’t all the same either. You may have a minor malocclusion or a significant one. You may have an overbite, or an overjet, or a combination of different bite and alignment concerns. Your malocclusion may not bother you at all, or it may cause pain, discomfort, or self-consciousness.

That’s why every overbite or overjet should be evaluated by an orthodontist. When you visit our Springfield, MA orthodontic office, Dr. Scott Smith will be able to diagnose the exact nature of your malocclusion, the reason for it, and your best individualized treatment plan. An overbite and an overjet are different malocclusions, but you and your orthodontist want the same outcome for each: a healthy, attractive, and confident smile!

How Long Will My Retainer Last?

September 21st, 2022

You’ve worked hard for your attractive, healthy smile, and now you’re making sure it stays attractive and healthy by wearing your retainer. Since wearing a retainer is usually a matter of years, not months, it’s natural to wonder just how long you can count on that retainer to help you maintain your smile.

That answer depends on the type of retainer you get at our Springfield, MA office. A Hawley retainer, a clear retainer, and a fixed wire retainer have different lifespans. Because they each have their own advantages, Dr. Scott Smith will recommend the retainer that’s right for protecting your individual smile.

So let’s look at the average lifespan for different retainers, and, equally important, some of the common mishaps that can shorten that working life.

The Hawley Retainer

This is the retainer most people picture when they think “retainer.” Made of wire securely attached to an acrylic base, the Hawley retainer keeps the teeth in place, and can even be adjusted, if needed, to improve alignment. They generally last anywhere from three to ten years.

How can you make sure your Hawley retainer keeps working for you as long as possible?

  • Keep it in its case. While some damages to these retainers can be repaired, why take a chance? And it’s much harder to lose a retainer if it’s in its case as opposed to, say, a cafeteria napkin.
  • Keep it away from your pet. Dogs, especially, are tempted by the taste and smell of saliva, but there are safer, less expensive chew toys out there.
  • Keep wearing it. Without your retainer, your teeth can shift. Over time, not only will your retainer fail to fit anymore, but you might need to return for further orthodontic treatment. If you notice your retainer is starting to feel uncomfortable, give your orthodontist a call.

The Clear Retainer

Clear retainers look like clear aligners, and, like clear aligners, are almost invisible. Made of vacuum-formed plastic, they’re designed for a close, comfortable fit, often around the entire arch of your teeth. Also like clear aligners, these retainers aren’t made to last forever. If they become loose, warped, or cracked, they should be replaced. With care, they can last from six months to several years. How to protect them?

  • Protect your retainer from damage. Keep it in its case when you’re not wearing it. You’ll avoid losing it, and you’ll avoid damaging it.
  • Protect it from teeth. And we don’t just mean pets, although they find clear retainers yummy, too. If you grind your teeth, your retainer can suffer. Clear retainers are not the same thing as night guards, so talk to your orthodontist for recommendations.
  • Protect it from heat. Hot surfaces like ovens or heaters, hot dashboards, washers and dryers, even very hot drinks can be a problem. (You should only be drinking water while you wear your clear retainer, so that particular issue shouldn’t arise!)

The Fixed Retainer

A fixed retainer is a small piece of wire that is custom-fit and bonded to the back of specific teeth to prevent any movement from occurring. Because it’s bonded to the inside of the teeth, a fixed retainer is completely invisible when you speak or smile. It can last five years, ten years, and in some cases, even longer. Even though you won’t be exposing this retainer to external dangers like hungry pups or the wash-and-rinse cycle, there are still some situations to watch for:

  • Watch your diet. The same sticky, crunchy, or hard foods that can damage brackets and wires can also loosen a fixed retainer.
  • Watch your dental hygiene. While cleaning around a bonded retainer can be a bit challenging, not cleaning around it can result in plaque and tartar buildup—and your retainer might have to be removed to clean your teeth.
  • Watch for changes. If your teeth start to shift, it could mean your retainer has detached from one or more teeth. Ask your dentist to check the retainer’s bond whenever you have a checkup.

So, how long will that retainer last? Depending on the kind of retainer you have, if you don’t keep it in its case, or if you don’t watch your diet, or if you expose it to heat, the answer is—not nearly long enough. Dr. Scott Smith will give you the very best tips to keep your retainer clean, safe, and working for as long as possible. Now, it’s up to you!

Getting a Retainer? Make It Personal!

September 14th, 2022

If Dr. Scott Smith and our team recommend a Hawley retainer to complete your orthodontic treatment, you’re getting a classic. This retainer, invented by Dr. Charles Hawley, has been in use since the early decades of the twentieth century.

But this isn’t your great grandmother’s pink plastic retainer! The look of today’s Hawley retainer has really evolved from its early days as the “Hawley bite plate”—and pink is now a choice instead of an inevitability. In fact, you can choose from any number of colors, patterns, and designs to create a retainer that is uniquely you.

Each Hawley retainer is customized to fit your mouth and teeth perfectly. Wire clasps and a labial bow wire are securely attached to an acrylic base based on a model made from your teeth and mouth.

Your retainer is designed for function—the bow wire makes sure your teeth stay in the perfect position while your bones and ligaments get strong enough to hold them in place. The acrylic base, of course, is also functional—but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it!

Retainer bases can be formed in different ways.  One type of retainer model uses pre-formed acrylic discs for the base, and these are available in many pre-formed colors and patterns. Another type of retainer builds the base by alternating several applications of liquid and powder acrylics, layer after layer. This process allows the retainer technician to create one-of-a-kind designs.

What are some of the ways to make your retainer uniquely yours?

  • Color—whether deep tones, pastels, electrics, neon, or metallic, you can find an appealing shade in the color chart. Or, if you want your retainer to keep a low profile, choose a clear or a color-coordinated pink tone.
  • Glow in the Dark—if you don’t want your retainer to keep a low profile, this might be just the look for you!
  • Glitter—accessorize your sparkling smile with a sparkling retainer.
  • Patterns—stripes, polka dots, geometric shapes—even animal patterns are possible.
  • Color Combinations—why choose one color when you can have a marbled swirl of your favorites? Or a tie-dye look? Or team colors?
  • Acrylic Designs—a colorful design that captures your personality is available with some creative acrylic artistry. Rainbows and flags, hearts and flowers, ladybugs, and spider webs are just some of the options on hand.
  • Picture Perfect—for that special hobby, pet, team, or other personal favorite, decals or pictures can be applied under a layer of clear acrylic.

Hawley retainers are made to last, so choose your design with years of use in mind. Talk to our Springfield, MA team about the custom looks which are available to celebrate your unique personality. After all, there’s nothing more personal than your smile!

Talking Over Your Underbite

August 31st, 2022

You’ve been told that you have a malocclusion called an “underbite.” Let’s look at just what this diagnosis means, and what it means for you.

Just what is an “underbite”?

A malocclusion is another way of saying that you have a problem with your bite, which is the way your jaws and teeth fit together when you bite down. In a typical bite, the front top teeth project slightly beyond, and slightly overlap, the bottom teeth.

An underbite, on the other hand, results when the lower teeth and jaw extend further forward than the upper teeth and jaw, causing the bottom teeth to overlap the top teeth.

What causes an underbite?

Underbites tend to be genetic, and run in families, so, most often, an underbite is something you’re born with. The size of your jaws, the shape of your teeth, or both will affect your bite.

A smaller number of underbites develop because of injuries or early oral habits, such as prolonged and vigorous thumb sucking or tongue thrusting.

How do we treat an underbite?

Your treatment will depend on the type and severity of your underbite, and your age when treatment occurs.

  • Braces and Aligners

If your underbite is a slight one, caused, for example, by crowded or overly large teeth, braces or clear aligners can help move the teeth into proper alignment.

  • Functional Appliances

If the underbite is caused by a problem with upper and lower jaw development, devices called functional appliances can be used to help guide the growth of the jawbones while a child’s bones are still growing and forming.

If you’re a young patient, two appliances commonly used to help correct an underbite are palatal expanders, which gradually widen the upper jaw if it’s too narrow, and reverse pull headgear, which fits both inside the mouth and outside on the face, and provides a steady, gentle pull to encourage the forward growth of the upper jaw.

  • Surgical treatment

In some severe cases, surgical treatment can correct an underbite by reshaping the jawbone itself and positioning it further back to align properly with the upper jaw.

Why treat your underbite?

A serious underbite can cause damaged teeth and enamel, painful problems with the temporomandibular joint, headaches and facial pain, sleep apnea, difficulty chewing, eating, and speaking, and can affect confidence and self-esteem.

By following your treatment plan, you’ll not only prevent these consequences, but you’ll achieve major benefits—a healthy, comfortable bite, and an attractive, confident smile. Want to know more? Talk it over with Dr. Scott Smith at our Springfield, MA office for all the information you’ll need!

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