Fixing an open bite is like taming a wild horse – you have to take time and multiple approaches before you notice any positive changes. And there is always an aspect of wildness left that you have to acknowledge and respect when you're through. An open bite doesn't have a miracle cure or even a single approach; and when you've gotten the bite to where you want it, you still have to anticipate a wild card popping up in the future to give you some trouble. Knowing this, however, makes the process of closing your teeth together bearable. You will likely meet with 5 specialists before you can get your teeth to align the way you want: a dentist, an orthodontist/cosmetic dentist, a surgeon, a TMJ specialist, and a speech therapist.

The Role of a Dentist

The dentist will probably be the first specialist to say something about your open bite. Dentists are the ones to recommend you to orthodontists and surgeons for treatment. You will also work with your dentist to maintain oral health while you go through therapy and braces. For the best dental care, keep your dentist up-to-date on all procedures you are going through.

The Role of an Orthodontist/Cosmetic Dentist

Orthodontists and cosmetic dentists are the next specialists you will probably see about your open bite. They will give you an idea of the time frame for treatment, as well as help you understand your treatment options. Orthodontists and cosmetic dentists will help you determine what jaw issues you need to address first. A tongue thrust is a major cause of open bites. If this is the case for you, you will be recommended to a speech therapist to fix the tongue thrust before any orthodontist work is completed. If you have jaw pain in addition to an open bite, you should also see a TMJ specialist before getting braces to address joint dysfunction. Your orthodontist/cosmetic dentist will recommend you for consultations with both of these experts before doing work themselves.

The Role of a Speech Therapist

Speech therapists will train you to swallow correctly. Swallowing incorrectly forces your teeth forward and out of alignment. It is a major cause of open bites. It's important that you see a speech therapist for tongue thrust before doing any orthodontic work. If you skip this step and go straight to braces, your open bite will return within a couple of years. However, if you can teach yourself to swallow correctly, you can expect the same orthodontic/cosmetic results as any other patient.

The Role of a TMJ Specialist

Only using your back teeth to bite down and chew causes excess pressure along your jaw joint. The joint then becomes swollen and misaligned. Many patients with an open bite complain of TMJ (tempera mandibular joint) pain. A specialist in this field can fit you for a splint, which reduces joint pressure and its negative side effects. When your swelling and pain have receded, you are ready for braces to close your teeth together.

The Role of a Surgeon

At this point, you will return to your orthodontist or cosmetic dentist. A surgeon should be at one of your first appointments to discuss the most permanent solution for your open bite with you. When you have worn your braces long enough that your teeth are properly aligned, surgery will help ensure that your jaw remains in position long-term. The surgery is fairly basic, but braces are necessary to maintain alignment during recovery. Small portions of your jaw are cut, then bonded together with miniscule screws so that your jaw will not revert to its open bite. While the surgery is optional, it is recommended because it considerably slows the reversion process.

Although an open bite will always revert, with proper preparations you can slow the reversion process from a year or two to fifteen or twenty years. This gives you the same cosmetic results that other patients have when they get cosmetic work done. However, for an open bite to get to this point, many specialists are involved. 

For more information about the treatment you may need, contact a local cosmetic dentistry or orthodontic clinic.