If you’ve been around a dentist or orthodontist, you may have heard them speaking about your bite as a Class I, Class II, or Class III. You’re probably wondering what on earth that means. We understand! It can be a little confusing to hear some of our terminologies when discussing your bite. The classes are part of a bite classification system used to help determine what type of orthodontic treatment will be necessary for the patient.
The doctors at Sacks Orthodontics use these classifications to determine if our patients need to fix an overbite, an underbite, or a normal bite. You may think the latter doesn’t need any repair, but people can have bites properly aligned and still have dental issues, such as crooked teeth, gap teeth, or a crossbite. Let’s look at these different classifications, what they mean, and how we can fix problems for each class.
The first classification of a bite is Class I or Class 1. This class of bite indicates a “normal” bite. This means the molars (back teeth) are properly aligned when the patient bites down or has their jaw at rest. The teeth and jaws rest and fit together exactly as they should.
Does this mean you do not need orthodontics with a Class I bite? Not necessarily. You can still have crowded teeth, excessive spacing, or other issues that need to be addressed with braces or clear aligners. We can create a plan to preserve your perfect bite while giving you an ideal smile.
You can have other issues within a bite classification, including Class I bites.
Crowded teeth can occur even with a normal bite and are caused by a lack of room on the jaw to allow the teeth to erupt properly. Often, crowded teeth are caused by undersized jaws, where the teeth don’t have room to erupt. They can also be caused by baby teeth not falling out in time before permanent teeth begin to erupt, or baby teeth falling out too early and other teeth moving to fill the space, leaving less room for the permanent tooth.
Braces or Invisalign clear aligners are used to repair crowded teeth. In some cases, a tooth or teeth may need to be extracted to make room for all of the teeth.
Teeth are designed to sit flush with each other side by side. Excessive spacing is when the teeth shift apart from one another. A large jaw or missing teeth can give the other teeth enough space to move apart.
As with crowded teeth, treatment with braces or Invisalign is the best way to fix excessive spacing issues.
A Class II bite, or Class 2 bite, is when the lower jaw is further back than the upper jaw. Also called malocclusion, the upper teeth protrude forward from the lower teeth. In layman’s terms, this is called an overbite. Patients with a Class II bite usually have a profile where the chin is tucked well behind the upper jaw.
What causes a Class II bite? Several factors can affect your jaws.
There are two types of Class II malocclusion. Division 1 is when the front teeth are angled outward, creating what’s called an overjet. Division 2 is when the front teeth are tilted more toward the roof of the mouth. You can also have crossbites and open bites. A crossbite can occur on one or both sides of the mouth. Finally, a Class II bite can include an open bite, which is where the upper and lower teeth don’t touch when the jaws are at rest.
A Class II bite can usually be treated with just orthodontic treatment such as braces or Invisalign, but the most severe cases may require surgery as well to correct the jaw’s placement.
A crossbite is when a tooth or several teeth of the upper jaw sit inside the teeth of the lower jaw. It’s called an anterior crossbite when this occurs with the back teeth or molars. It’s called a posterior crossbite when this occurs with the front teeth.
Crossbites can be repaired with braces or Invisalign, often using rubber bands to pull the teeth into their proper position.
An open bite is a type of overbite where the front teeth are angled outward or upward. The result is a gap between the upper and lower incisors or front teeth. This front gap not only can interfere with the patient’s bite but also can call speech problems because the tongue doesn’t land on the teeth correctly. Patients may speak with a lisp and may have trouble with their front bite.
As with other types of overbites, the open bite can be repaired with braces or Invisalign.
The last class in the dental bite classification system is the Class III, or Class 3, bite. This is a bite in which the bottom molars are moved forward and don’t meet the upper molars properly. The lower teeth sit further forward than the upper teeth. This is commonly called an underbite.
Patients with this type of bite usually have a profile where their chin is either prominent or looks to be thrust forward. Often, this type of bite is because the lower jaw grows too much, the upper jaw grows too little, or both.
As with a Class II bite, Class III bites can be treated with braces or Invisalign. In severe cases, surgery may be required.
You may think that you can “live” with a bad bite, but that’s not a good idea. A bad bite can cause more dental issues over time. It can affect not only your oral health but also your overall health.
Your teeth are designed to fit a certain way so the pressure of chewing is distributed evenly. When you have a bad bite, that pressure isn’t distributed correctly, so some teeth or parts of teeth may get far more pressure than they should. Over time, this can cause excessive tooth wear and weaken the enamel (the hard outer shell of your tooth) and cause cracks, chips, and breaks. This could lead to tooth loss.
A bad bite also can accelerate tooth decay. Misaligned teeth can leave gaps for food and plaque to gather, or they can be so tightly packed together it’s almost impossible to clean with brushing and flossing. They can even leave gaps in the gums around the teeth where food particles can get stuck. This can make good oral hygiene difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. That can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, which can cause infection and tooth loss.
A bad bite doesn’t just affect your teeth. It also puts undue pressure on your jaws and can lead to jaw pain and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). A bad bite makes it more difficult to chew your food properly. Digestion starts in your mouth with saliva breaking down properly chewed food. If the food is not chewed well, the stomach has to work harder to digest your food, and this can cause gastrointestinal issues as time goes on. It can also cause nutrient deficiencies because the food isn’t broken down properly.
For these reasons, it’s important to fix your bad bite as soon as possible. Don’t worry if you weren’t able to fix it as a child. We can treat adult patients, too!
If you’re unsure of your bite classification, Sacks Orthodontics can offer you a free consultation that will determine what classification your bite falls under and whether it needs repair. If it’s not a perfect bite, then rest assured: You don’t have to live with a bad bite.
If you’re in the northeastern New Jersey area, schedule an appointment with Sacks Orthodontics. You can start with a free virtual consult or request an in-office consultation. We can work with you on a treatment plan, and we’ll work with you on a way to pay for that plan because we believe orthodontic care should never be cost-prohibitive. You shouldn’t have to live with a bad bite, and thanks to the team at Sacks Orthodontics, you don’t have to!