Did you know that even if your teeth appear to be straight when you look in the mirror, you could still have a bite that needs repair through orthodontic treatment? Most people, when assessing their smile, focus only on what they can see. For most people, that’s what stares back when you smile in the mirror, and that’s usually only the six front teeth.
“Your bite is shaped by how all of your teeth fit together,” says Alpharetta orthodontist Dr. Nima. “When you smile, your front teeth may come together nicely, but how do your back teeth fit together? Because every person has teeth that are shaped differently, and jaws and bone structure that all vary person to person, every bite will be unique to each person. But, it is important that your bite works ideally to avoid damage, such as cracking and breaking.”
So what should an ideal bite look like?
Let’s start by looking at the most common view – the view from the front. Dr. Nima explains that ideally, the edges of the top front teeth should be parallel to the top of your lower lip. The upper teeth should come over the bottom teeth slightly, to form what is called an overjet. A normal overjet is between two and three millimeters.
If the upper incisors cover too much of the lower teeth, a patient has what is called a deep bite. If the upper teeth don’t cover enough of the lower teeth, it is referred to as an open bite. A crossbite occurs when the upper arch is either too narrow or too wide, allowing the teeth to cross over the lower ones.
The upper midline of the teeth should align with the middle of the upper lip, and the lower midline should line up with the upper midline.
Looking at your teeth from the side, you can compare how they line up with how the teeth of a zipper line up. To work properly, should be properly aligned to allow for pressure to be distributed equally. The pointed ends of the top teeth should fit between two bottom teeth.
The backs of your top front teeth should gently rest in front of the lower front teeth when your bite is closed. This slight overbite actually works to protect your teeth from abnormal wear.
When you look at your teeth from the top, like when you are flossing and look straight down on your bottom teeth, the teeth should be arrange in an arch shape. They should be touching with no spaces, but with no overlapping, either.
“When I evaluate a smile, I typically begin by looking at the smile from the front,” says Dr. Nima. “This allows me to see where the teeth are in position to the lips, how much gum shows, is there too much of an overbite? Is there an underbite or a crossbite that might be putting abnormal wear on the teeth?”
After a physical examination of the mouth, Dr. Nima also uses photos and X-ray imaging to get a deeper look at the patient’s bite to determine if orthodontic treatment could help the bite and prevent abnormal wear on the teeth.