If you have a bite issue as an adult, then you’re in good company. Whether it’s an overbite, an underbite, crossbite, or another issue, bite issues happen often.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you should know about crossbite, including its common causes and the best treatment options for adults.
What Is Crossbite?
Crossbite is not as common as some other bite issues like underbite or overbite, but it’s an issue that plagues a surprising number of adults. In a normal smile, the two rows of teeth line up perfectly, like two arches stacked on top of each other. But in crossbite, the arches don’t line up. Some of the teeth on the top arch fall outside the bottom arch, and some fall inside it.
Technically, there are many kinds of crossbite. But for the sake of this guide, we won’t go into that. What really matters is whether your crossbite stems from your jaw bone or the positions of your teeth (more on this in a minute).
Crossbite is most often handed down genetically. For example, sometimes one side of the jaw might not develop fully, causing one side to be shorter than the other one. A crossbite can also occur when the adult teeth take too long to emerge. Prolonged childhood habits like thumbsucking and using a pacifier can also push your teeth out of place.
How Do I Know If I Have a Crossbite?
Depending on the severity and position of your crossbite, you may not be able to spot your crossbite yourself. Thankfully, your dentist can diagnose it for you. In addition to identifying whether or not you have crossbite, a dentist can help determine which teeth are affected and which ones are positioned correctly.
Do I Need to Correct My Crossbite?
In many cases, crossbite requires some form of correction. If left untreated, crossbite can cause complications like excess enamel wear, teeth grinding, and gum disease. In the most severe cases, crossbite sufferers can experience jaw pain, headaches, or even TMJ because the poor position of your jaw puts undue stress on your muscles.
To avoid these negative side effects, you’ll need to get treatment for your crossbite. That said, if your crossbite is pretty minor, you may be able to leave your crossbite as is. The best way to know for sure is to consult with your dentist. They will determine if it’s safe to go without treatment. And if treatment is needed, your dentist will help you pick the right method for you.
With that in mind, let’s talk about some crossbite treatment methods.
At-home Clear Aligners
Invisalign was the first company to introduce clear aligners, but they didn’t have a monopoly for long. Several other companies created their own clear aligner trays. At first, these Invisalign competitors were only available through a dentist or an orthodontist. But by 2014, companies like Smile Direct Club cut out the middleman and provided home-based clear aligners directly to the consumer.
If you choose to use home teeth aligners to correct your crossbite, here’s what you can expect. Instead of having an initial consultation with your orthodontist, you’ll order an impression kit and create 3D molds of your teeth. The home teeth aligner company you choose uses those molds to confirm that you’re a candidate for treatment. And if you are, they’ll create a set of custom aligners for you. By wearing each aligner for the prescribed amount of time, you’ll be able to gradually shift your teeth into their new positions.
That’s the same principle as Invisalign, really. But there are a few differences to note. For one thing, at-home teeth aligners can only treat minor-to-moderate cosmetic cases. They can’t add on elastics and attachments like Invisalign does. So if your crossbite is severe, then home teeth aligners can’t correct it.
Most at-home aligner providers are focused on moving the front six upper and lower teeth (otherwise known as “the social six”). The exception to this is Candid, which is the only at-home aligner provider able to move your molars. This allows them to treat slightly more complex cases than their competitors, though still limited when compared to in-office options.
But for those with a minor crossbite, home teeth aligners are much cheaper than Invisalign. They’re typically faster, too.
Other Treatment Options: Braces, Invisalign & Surgery
Unfortunately, home aligners aren’t the right option for a lot of people suffering from crossbite. Home aligners can only correct the positions of your teeth, not your jaw. However, many cases of crossbite are caused by poor positioning of the jaw bone; treating it requires a more powerful method than home aligners. Some of those include braces, Invisalign, and in the most severe cases, corrective surgery.
Braces often get a bad wrap for being uncomfortable, ugly, and pricey. And technically, those are all true criticisms. The wires and brackets used in braces can cut into your cheeks and gums (especially when they’re first installed). And braces typically cost around $5,000.
But despite those downsides, braces are still around today for a good reason. They’re the most universally-accepted method to straighten your teeth. And when it comes to correcting your crossbite, braces will be able to handle your case—even if your crossbite is caused by the size or positioning of your jaw bone.
As a whole, braces allow for more nuanced movements thanks to metal appliances and elastics. Over the course of your treatment (which usually lasts between 1.5-2 years), your orthodontist can gradually move both your teeth and your jaw into perfect alignment.
Braces + Palatal Expansion
In some cases of crossbite, the upper jaw is actually smaller than the lower one. When that happens, it’s necessary to “expand” the upper jaw before attaching braces. If that’s you, your orthodontist will start your treatment by adding a metal appliance that spans the roof of your mouth. Usually, patients have to wear this appliance for about six months before they can get started with their braces.
Invisalign first entered the teeth alignment scene just before 2000. And when they did, they really shook things up by correcting two of the biggest complaints about braces: ugliness and discomfort. Instead of using wires and brackets, Invisalign uses clear trays molded to your teeth. The trays are nearly invisible, and there’s no metal in your mouth to cut up your cheeks.
That said, you will still experience some discomfort while wearing your Invisalign aligners. That’s inevitable when you’re shifting your teeth from their positions. And Invisalign isn’t really any faster or cheaper than traditional braces; the average cost is also around $5,000. So if you’re looking for the fastest method to treat your bite issue, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Like braces, Invisalign can treat most crossbites regardless of the cause. That’s because Invisalign uses proprietary SmartForce attachments and elastics in addition to your aligner trays. Those extras allow for the nuanced movements necessary to treat both your jaw and your teeth.
Corrective surgery is definitely the most drastic method on this list, but fortunately, for most people, it’s not necessary. Your care provider will only recommend surgery if all the other options we’ve discussed will not correct your crossbite. If you go this route, your surgeon will shift your jaw into alignment by force.
Understandably, surgery is the most expensive method to correct a crossbite. It will also cause you the most discomfort (especially up front). The recovery time is significant, and in many cases, you’ll need to adjust your eating habits for a while. Surgery isn’t right for everyone. But it’s certainly the most powerful method.
Which Treatment Option Is Right For You?
Crossbite is a fairly common dental issue, and it rarely causes long-term problems. But if you want to perfect your grin by treating your crossbite, then you’re in good company.
Everyone’s smile is unique, including all the charms and imperfections. And a unique smile needs a unique treatment. What works to treat one person won’t necessarily be right for you. But if you decide to treat your crossbite, odds are you’ll be able to use braces, Invisalign, or home teeth aligners to get the results you want. We hope this guide will help you make the decision that’s right for you!