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What is a Class III Malocclusion?

A Class III Malocclusion, often known as an underbite, occurs when the lower teeth protrude past the upper teeth due to misalignment of the jaw. This can lead to chewing difficulties and jaw strain. Understanding its causes and treatments is crucial for oral health. Wondering how it can affect your smile and well-being? Let's examine the impact together.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A class III malocclusion is a misalignment of the teeth that results in a situation where the lower teeth are more prominent than the teeth in the upper jaw. This condition is also known as an underbite and it is much less common than other types of malocclusions where the upper teeth are more prominent. Patients can develop a class III malocclusion for a number of different reasons, and it can be accompanied with complications such as crowding of the teeth or abnormal spacing of the teeth.

Malocclusions in general are variations in the formation and layout of the teeth and jaws that cause the teeth to be out of alignment. Many people have mild malocclusions that do not require treatment. Some people develop more severe misalignments that can lead to dental and other health problems and require corrective measures. It is also possible to correct a malocclusion for aesthetic reasons. Some dentists divide malocclusions into classes by type for convenience.

An orthodontist corrects the alignment of teeth with braces.
An orthodontist corrects the alignment of teeth with braces.

In the case of a class III malocclusion, one reason is genetics. Environmental factors such as sucking on the thumb can also play a role. Sometimes the mandible, or lower jawbone, is larger or longer than usual, and in other cases, the maxillary or upper jaw is shortened. When a dentist identifies an underbite in a patient, x-rays and physical exams are used to learn more about what is causing the malocclusion so that a treatment plan can be developed.

Trauma to the jaw may cause malocclusions.
Trauma to the jaw may cause malocclusions.

For mild cases, a wait and see approach may be taken. If the patient has habits that could be contributing to the malocclusion, counseling may be provided to help the patient stop the behavior. A retainer may also be used in an attempt to correct a class III malocclusion, to see if it is possible to pull the teeth into alignment with periodic retainer wear. The next, more aggressive, treatment option is braces that are fitted to the teeth and adjusted over time to pull the teeth into alignment.

A severe class III malocclusion may require surgical repair.
A severe class III malocclusion may require surgical repair.

A patient with a severe class III malocclusion may require surgery. It may also be be necessary to wear braces or retainers in combination with surgery, depending on an individual patient's situation. Once the malocclusion is corrected, the patient should be able to eat and drink normally. Any complications caused by the underbite, such as abnormal wear on the teeth, should also resolve with treatment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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    • An orthodontist corrects the alignment of teeth with braces.
      By: Igor Mojzes
      An orthodontist corrects the alignment of teeth with braces.
    • Trauma to the jaw may cause malocclusions.
      By: Vesna Cvorovic
      Trauma to the jaw may cause malocclusions.
    • A severe class III malocclusion may require surgical repair.
      By: Vladimir Melnik
      A severe class III malocclusion may require surgical repair.
    • Dental X-rays can help determine the cause of malocclusion.
      By: Andrey Armyagov
      Dental X-rays can help determine the cause of malocclusion.
    • In the case of a genetic class III malocclusion, sometimes the mandible is larger or longer than usual, and sometimes the maxillary is shortened.
      By: snapgalleria
      In the case of a genetic class III malocclusion, sometimes the mandible is larger or longer than usual, and sometimes the maxillary is shortened.
    • For mild cases of class II malocclusions, a "wait and see" approach may be taken.
      By: ruigsantos
      For mild cases of class II malocclusions, a "wait and see" approach may be taken.