Have you ever heard your dentist say that you have “end-to-end” or “edge-to-edge” teeth? If you actually have a classic case of edge-to-edge teeth, treatment is almost always highly recommended. And it’s not just because edge-to-edge teeth can wear your tooth enamel out; there are also functional reasons you’ll notice as you get older.
It’s possible to have edge-to-edge teeth if your jaws don’t line up appropriately, you’re biting down weird (like when your dentist says, “bite your teeth together,” and you’re not biting how you normally would), your jaws grew a little out of place, or even if you have crooked teeth.
You might need edge-to-edge bite correction if your teeth normally bite end on end because of something like an open bite, crossbite, underbite (like where your upper jaw is protruded way too far forward), or some other type of growth issue.
Sometimes teeth bite edge-to-edge because of genetic predispositions—like you inherited it from a parent—or because teeth just came in crooked when they weren’t supposed to. Habits like tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, or mouth breathing can also reshape the way our mouths physically form when we’re kids, and those growth patterns stick with us for life. Adults who have experienced extensive tooth loss might have an end-on-end bite because those are the only teeth they have left to chew with.
Early dental treatment and “growth modification” techniques can help younger children avoid future edge-to-edge teeth treatment, but only if their dentist or orthodontist intercepts the issue during the right stage of development. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize they need edge-to-edge bite correction until they’re a lot older.
You’ll probably notice an edge-to-edge bite in the front of your smile first because it’s the most visible. It will look like the edges of your top and bottom teeth are hitting end on end against each other, instead of the lower front teeth being tucked slightly behind the upper ones. When that happens, the back teeth might not even be hitting each other.
After a while, any teeth that fit end-to-end will start to look flattened across their chewing surfaces. There might even be sharp edges where the enamel has worn itself down or developed small chips and cracks.
If your biting edges are really worn down, you’ll probably see a darker yellow color on those surfaces because there is no white enamel left to cover them.
People with edge-to-edge teeth routinely experience TMJ disorder symptoms, headaches, fractured teeth, and broken dental work. Sometimes there are even areas of tissue trauma inside their lips and cheeks.
Edge-to-edge bite correction involves physically adjusting the alignment of your teeth and/or jaws. This could be a slow and progressive treatment like growth modification and braces or something more major like oral surgery and jaw reconstruction.
Your dentist can check your occlusion (that’s the way your teeth bite together) with a visual exam or by using a special marking paper that highlights the areas of your teeth that hit each other the heaviest. If treatment is needed, you’ll probably discuss the following popular options:
When it comes to most edge-to-edge teeth, treatment will usually involve traditional bracket and wire braces systems. These orthodontic techniques work well when there are severe forms of tooth misalignment. Your dentist may even be able to correct the end-to-end bite without recommending any type of oral surgery.
You might want to consider getting braces if you’re planning upcoming crown, bridge, or implant treatment and need to ensure your bite fits together properly beforehand. Depending on your bite, treatment timeframes with braces usually average between 12-18 months or more. Severe bite discrepancies may need up to 24 months from start to finish.
Today, clear aligners are more effective than they’ve ever been. Issues like crossbites, overbites, and edge-to-edge teeth can be corrected with removable trays, depending on the individual’s unique anatomy. It’s important to talk with your dentist or orthodontist beforehand to make sure your circumstances fit the right treatment criteria. You might need “buttons” on your teeth to provide an added grip for the aligners to move your teeth in the correct direction.
The timeframe for clear aligner treatment is usually about the same as braces, but it can sometimes be less, depending on which technology your dentist is using.
As an adult, your jaws are completely developed. There is no way to reshape your bone anatomy, even with braces. At this point, severe jaw irregularities can only be corrected with oral surgery. Most dentists will not provide this in their office, so you will need to visit an oral/maxillofacial surgeon.
The specialist oral surgeon will adjust the position of your bone and then provide a permanent splint as the jaws heal in the new position. It’s an extremely complex procedure, but it can be life-changing. The entire procedure is completed under deep sedation or general anesthesia.
Oral surgery typically compliments orthodontic treatment as your bones and teeth are being adjusted.
If you have a child with suspected edge-to-edge teeth, right now is the best time to get ahead of things. Ask a pediatric dentist or orthodontist about growth modification appliances. These devices help your child’s jaws and teeth grow in more ideal directions, limiting their potential need for oral surgery or extensive orthodontic treatment later on down the road. Examples include palatal expanders, fixed retainers like a lower lingual arch, space maintainers, and Herbst appliances.
Whenever your dentist tells you to bite your teeth together, they’re usually checking your occlusion for bite abnormalities. They probably do this during every routine exam without you even realizing it. But if it’s been a while since you’ve seen a dentist, or you notice that your teeth are starting to wear out along the edges, you may have developed edge-to-edge teeth without realizing it. Consider asking your dentist to check your bite to see if your tooth alignment is to the point where you need to move forward with treatment.
Edge-to-edge teeth treatment isn’t solely for aesthetics. It’s for overall function and the future health (and integrity) of your teeth. Without edge-to-edge bite correction, your teeth will simply wear each other out. Enamel is the hardest thing in the human body, but it’s not invincible when it’s wearing against itself. Your teeth—and any existing dental work—will eventually give out without treatment. Always talk to your dentist or get a second opinion from a trusted orthodontist.
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