Crossbite in Teeth Explained: What It Is, How It Is Fixed, & More

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Misalignments of teeth are a common problem that orthodontists see and treat every day. One type of misalignment is what is known as a crossbite.

A crossbite is a malocclusion (bad bite) where the two rows of teeth overlap improperly. The good news is, like with many orthodontic problems, your orthodontist is well-equipped to treat this issue and help create the beautiful smile you deserve. 

So, if you are looking for more information on a crossbite in teeth, we’ve got you covered! In this article, we’ve broken down exactly what a crossbite is, what causes it, why it should be corrected, how to fix crossbite, and more.  


What is a Crossbite?

A crossbite is a misalignment of the teeth to where upper teeth fit inside of the lower teeth. This can involve the front teeth, back teeth, or both and affect just a single tooth or groups of teeth. There are two types of crossbite:

Posterior crossbite: 

This crossbite is the more common type, affecting roughly 16% of the population. A posterior crossbite is an improper bite in the back of the teeth where the back bottom teeth (the molars and premolars) jut out further than the back top teeth. This can occur on just one side of the mouth or both sides.


Anterior crossbite:

Affecting about 4 to 5% of the population, an anterior crossbite is when the front bottom teeth stick out farther than the front top teeth. The front teeth include the incisors and canines on each row of teeth. An anterior crossbite is similar to an underbite. The more severe cases of crossbite are usually an anterior crossbite and are treated with a combination of orthodontic care and surgery to set the lower jaw back further and achieve optimal tooth alignment.

When the teeth are lined up correctly, the upper jaw/teeth will naturally be slightly wider because they should sit just on the outside of the bottom teeth when the mouth is closed.


What Causes Crossbite in Teeth?

Two main things lead to crossbites or underbites: genetics and developmental causes.

Like many other physical features, jaw structure and teeth alignment are inherited traits. Crossbites are hereditary. So, this means that if a parent, grandparent, or other close relative has a crossbite, there is a good chance that the related child will inherit a similar oral condition.

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop children from inheriting crossbites. But, as you’ll see below, they can be effectively treated with professional orthodontic care from your orthodontist.


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Various factors during dental development can also cause a crossbite. These include:

  • Prolonged thumb-sucking
  • Tongue-thrusting
  • Prolonged use of a bottle or pacifier
  • Mouth breathing
  • Baby teeth being lost too early
  • Adult teeth growing in quickly

This is why dental experts recommend that children should see an orthodontist starting at age 7. This gives the orthodontist the ability to monitor the growth of the child’s adult teeth and catch any potential issues that may arise with their jaw, bite, and teeth.


Why Does a Crossbite Need to be Fixed?

If left untreated, a crossbite can cause significant damage to your oral health and even overall health over time. The possible consequences when not corrected can include:

  • A shift of the jaw to one side.
  • Lopsided jaw growth in kids and teens.
  • Wearing down of the outer tooth enamel.
  • Bite and breathing issues due to a narrow upper jaw and palate.
  • Headaches, jaw aches, facial muscle pain, or toothaches.
  • Pain when biting or chewing.
  • Trouble properly closing the mouth.
  • Speech impediments, like slurs or lisps.
  • Poor quality of sleep.
  • Temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
  • Difficulty maintaining the proper level of oral hygiene.
  • Bacterial growth in the mouth.
  • Plaque build-up on teeth.
  • Cavities.
  • Periodontal disease (gum disease).
  • Tooth loss.

Keep in mind that in children, a crossbite may reveal an underlying jaw problem. These situations are best addressed at a young age, while the jaws and facial bones are still developing.

No matter what age, as you can see, it is important to address and correct a crossbite to help eliminate any further and often more serious problems.

How a Crossbite is Fixed

Depending on the severity, there are a variety of orthodontic treatment methods that are effective for correcting a crossbite. To determine the specific type/extent of the crossbite and help choose a treatment plan that will work best for the patient’s needs, preferences, and budget, the orthodontist will do a thorough examination. This will include x-rays (or cone beam CT) and a visual exam.

The treatment options for a crossbite can include:

  • Palate Expander: In many cases or posterior crossbites in kids and teens, a special orthodontic appliance known as a palate expander (aka palatal expander) is used to broaden the upper jaw and teeth. These are a great option for still-developing jaws.
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  • Braces (Traditional or Damon Braces) or Invisalign: With older teens and adults, braces or clear aligners (like Invisalign) are effective at correcting mild to moderate cases of posterior and anterior crossbites.
  • Oral Surgery: In rare cases, a crossbite can be so severe that jaw surgery may be needed first. These scenarios usually involve a severe anterior crossbite. In these instances, orthodontic treatment with braces or aligners will usually occur after the surgery as well.

No matter what type of treatment is used, after the teeth are properly realigned and in their desired positions, a retainer will need to be worn. This will help to protect and maintain the work that was done and keep the teeth in the correct positions. Make sure that you or your child wear the retainers as instructed to prevent losing all the results that were achieved during the crossbite correction treatment.


Orthodontic Treatment Can Correct a Crossbite to Achieve a Beautiful Smile

If you have noticed or been told that you or your child has a crossbite, don’t worry. This common orthodontic issue can be corrected, resulting in a beautiful, straight smile that anyone would be proud to show off.

Here at Cook & Gutsche Orthodontics, you can be confident that you are being treated by highly skilled specialists in orthodontic treatment. Our orthodontists are experts in not only crossbites but all aspects of dentofacial orthopedics – properly aligned jaws and teeth. Our team has the experience and expertise to give you or your child the best smile possible.

And if you have any questions about crossbites or any other orthodontic issues, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help!