We’ve all seen a "perfect smile" but what do we mean by a perfect bite? It has nothing to do with the way a person chews their food but how the top and bottom teeth fit together. While few people are genetically blessed with the perfect bite, most people can improve their bite with orthodontic treatment.
What is a Bite?
A bite (known as a dental occlusion) is the way the top and bottom teeth fit together inside the mouth when the back teeth are touching.
What is a Perfect Bite?
A perfect bite is when the upper teeth are slightly over the bottom teeth, and the molars’ tips fit into the small spaces of the opposite molars.
When the mouth is closed and teeth are at rest, the top teeth should overlap the bottom ones slightly. Bottom teeth shouldn’t touch the back of top teeth when at rest, and there should be no interaction like touching or clenching when teeth are at rest. But it’s normal for front teeth to touch when biting down. This is an efficient way for teeth to cut through food when biting or chewing.
Do I need to have a perfect bite?
When orthodontists align teeth, often they attempt to make the bite as ideal as possible to ensure a person has the best possible chance of enjoying good lifelong dental and general health.
However many people with an imperfect bite get on just fine without major problems such as tooth wear, jaw joint problems and muscle pain.
On the other hand, a small percentage of people with perfect bites can have significant tooth wear, jaw joint problems and muscle pain. These individuals often have issues with the way they use their muscles, often grinding their teeth because of a multitude of factors such as stress and sleep disturbances. Moreover some individual have joints and ligaments that are fragile and prone to being overworked and overloaded.
If an adult presents with a desire to straighten teeth and a less than perfect bite The orthodontist will assess whether the bite is contributing to any functional problems. If they have lived with this bite for many years without significant problems, (such as tooth wear or functional disturbances in the jaws and muscles), the orthodontists may discuss the option of aligning the teeth without changing the bite. This has to be carefully considered in consultation with the orthodontist.
A dentist or orthodontist checks the patient's bite by examining their teeth from different angles. A "perfect" bite is considered when it has several attributes from the front, side, and top view.
Bite from the Front
An ideal bite viewed from the front will have one or more of the following attributes:
Bite from the Side
An ideal bite from the side will have the following characteristics:
The pointed ends of the upper teeth fit between the two bottom teeth
From this view, it’s clear that the upper teeth are a little in front of the lower teeth
The edges of the upper teeth shouldn’t be in direct contact with the edges of the front lower teeth
View from the Top
When the mouth is opened wide, the arches are visible and show:
No gaps, spaces or overlap between teeth
The arches are a perfect U-shape with all teeth touching and in the right position
Common Types of Bite
A bite that isn’t perfect is known as a malocclusion or misalignment of teeth. There are three kinds of malocclusion - crossbite, underbite, or overbite.
A crossbite occurs when groups of lower teeth fit in front of the top teeth. There are two kinds of crossbites - anterior and posterior. A posterior crossbite means the lower teeth toward the back of the mouth fit over the teeth in the top jaw. An anterior crossbite is when the teeth in the bottom front of the mouth fit over the teeth of the top jaw. A crossbite can cause pain in the jaw or teeth, headaches, sleep problems, tooth decay, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
An underbite occurs when the lower arch sits before the upper arch. For some, the underbite is hardly noticeable, while other people have a severe, obvious underbite. These people may experience difficulties with chewing and biting, facial pain, and speaking problems. A person may be genetically predisposed to an underbite or may have contributed to it by sucking their thumb or using a dummy past the age of three.
An overbite occurs when the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth excessively, sometimes directly pressing on the lower gums or the lower teeth pressing on the gums behind the upper teeth. This can weaken the support for the upper and/or lower teeth and can result in significant tooth wear if the individual has a habit of grinding their teeth.
An increased protrusion of the upper teeth that extend past the lower teeth. A case is severe if the top teeth are well past the lower teeth. While an overbite may also have hereditary causes including missing teeth or overcrowding and the shape of the jaw, it can also be lifestyle related such as thumb sucking, nail-biting, and tongue thrusting.
Fixing a Bad Bite
Orthodontists can improve a patient’s bad bite with one of the following:
Braces can move teeth into the preferred position and angle.
Tooth extraction, while avoided as much as possible, can benefit patients with severe overcrowding.
Jaw surgery combined with braces may be required to reposition the jaws to treat cases with severe discrepancies between the position of the upper and lower jaws.
Orthodontic treatment can fix most malocclusions and achieve an ideal bite. If you have any queries or concerns about your or your child’s bite, don’t hesitate to contact us online to talk through your options or book an appointment.