In dental discussions, the term "bite" refers to the way the upper and lower teeth come together. A normal bite means that the two sets of teeth close together easily and aligned. Several different bite problems can occur due to either a misplacement of the teeth or a misplacement of the jawbone. Overbites are a common bite problem where the upper front teeth stick out over the lower teeth.
A rarer bite problem is an open bite. In an open bite, the upper and lower teeth both jut outwards to such a degree that the two don't touch -- even when you try to close your mouth. If you have an open bite, you might have both cosmetic and physical issues with the condition. But there are a few different treatment options that can help.
Clear or metal braces can be used to push both the upper and lower teeth back into place. Orthodontic treatments work particularly well if you're young enough that your teeth are still developing. Braces can still help mild to moderate open bite in adults, but the treatment course will likely take longer to complete.
In order for the braces to work, the open bite problem needs to exist only in the teeth and not the jawbone. Braces don't move the bone so problems with your jaw need to be corrected before braces are used to treat any remaining issues with the teeth.
Moderate to severe open bites that include jaw misalignment might require jaw surgery. Your dentist will cut through the gums and into the bone and either remove a section to recess that section of jaw or splice in a graft section to make the jaw protrude further. The gums are stitched closed and your progress will be monitored until healing is complete.
In some patients, jaw surgery alone is sufficient to treat the open bite problem. If you do still need braces, your jaw needs to heal completely before the braces are applied.
It's possible that there are certain teeth making the open bite problem worse. This tooth or teeth are vastly out of position to the point it can push neighboring teeth out of position. Such an arrangement can also cause serious tooth crowding that would make it difficult for braces to push the teeth back in any uniform fashion.
Your dentist or orthodontist might decide to extract the out of place teeth that would jeopardize the treatment with braces. If you suspect you have problems with an open bite, contact your local orthodontist to find out more about orthodontic treatment and/or jaw surgery and extraction.