Crossbite Definition, Types, Causes & Treatment

Has the dentist told you that your child has a crossbite, or have you recently been diagnosed with one? The term sounds odd, and can be alarming to many people. However, the truth is that the problem is very common and very treatable. Read on to learn more about what a crossbite is, how it happens, and what are your crossbite treatment options.

What Is a Crossbite?

Crossbite is the term used to describe what happens when the upper and lower jaws do not properly align. The problem is diagnosed easily through a routine dental exam.

With a typical jaw, the upper teeth are positioned so that they are slightly in front of the bottom teeth all the way across. In a person with a crossbite, the teeth line up improperly in one particular area of the mouth. This may involve just one tooth, or may impact multiple teeth.

Main Types of Crossbite

There are three main types of crossbite, two of which are common, and one of which is rarer:

  1. Posterior Crossbite. This is one that occurs in the front of the mouth.
  2. Anterior Crossbite. This type occurs in the back of the mouth.
  3. Buccal Crossbite. With this rarer and more extreme form of crossbite, the upper teeth are positioned too close to the cheek on one side of the mouth, and do not touch the lower teeth at all. 

Crossbite Causes

A crossbite can have a number of different causes, including:

  • Genetics. Parents with crossbites have a good chance of having children suffering from one as well, as the condition is partially hereditary.
  • Jaw Size. People with smaller upper jaws or with an overly large lower jaw are more likely to develop it.
  • Tooth Development. Children whose baby teeth fall out at a slower pace than normal are more likely to develop crossbites, because the adult teeth are unable to form properly.
  • Enlarged adenoids and tonsils. Children with enlarged adenoids and tonsils often breathe out of their mouths rather than their noses, causing them to keep their tongues along the roofs of their mouths. Over time, this can actually impact the growth of the jaw and lead to the development of such a condition.
  • Thumb sucking. When children suck on their thumbs, this causes the palate to become smaller, which can deform the upper bone of the palate.

Crossbite Symptoms

Here are a few symptoms that can help you identify a crossbite:

  • Your upper and lower teeth don’t touch.
  • You have a lisp, or are unable to speak properly.
  • While you eat or speak, you often bite your tongue or inner cheek.
  • Your tooth/teeth hurts.
  • Your jaw hurts.
  • You experience headaches.

Crossbite Problems

A minor crossbite may not cause any problems. However, a moderate to severe one puts a person at risk for a number of dental problems later in life, such as:

  • Excess wear and tear on the teeth. When the jaws do not properly line up, some teeth have to work extra hard. Over time, this can cause the enamel to be worn away, making teeth more prone to cracking.
  • Higher risk for gum disease. Crossbites can make it much harder for people to brush and floss their teeth properly, and give places for bacteria to hide. This increases the risk of gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss, bone loss, and even an increased likelihood for heart disease.
  • Impact on appearance. Crossbites can make a person’s smile less attractive. This is particularly true of posterior crossbites, which are easier to see. Even a minor one can make a person feel self-conscious and hurt their self-esteem.
  • TMJ. People who suffer from crossbites are more likely to develop Temporomandibular Joint Disorders or TMJ, problems with the joint that connects the upper or lower jaw. TMJ can cause earaches, pain in the jaw, facial pain, locking of the jaw, numbness of the face, and a number of other unpleasant symptoms. 
  • Tooth decay. If you have misaligned teeth, you might have notice it is more difficult to brush and floss properly, because there are areas that are hard to reach. In time, this can lead to tooth decay due to bacteria.
  • Painful bites. If you suffer from a crossbite, you will find it difficult to bite on hard things without experiencing pain. The pain might be manageable, but it can also be unbearable for some people, in which case it’s important to seek medical help.

Crossbite Treatment Options

Orthodontists nearly always recommend treating crossbites in order to prevent the problems associated with the misalignment of the jaws. Treatments vary, and can include a number of different interventions. Orthodontists may use one treatment or more than one treatment in a series, depending on how serious the crossbite is. Below are some of the most common crossbite treatments explained.

Rapid Palatal Expander

What It Is: A Rapid Palatal Expander is an orthodontic appliance that fits against the roof of the mouth. It fits around the premolars and first permanent molars, and has a screw mechanism in the middle that requires regular adjustments at home.

Who It Is For: Rapid Palatal Expanders are effective for treating crossbites only in people whose jaws are not finished growing. Typically, orthodontists only use them to fix crossbites in children.

How It Works: The Rapid Palatal Expander pushes the two bones that support the soft palate outwards using gentle pressure. This helps expand the size of the jaw, and can reduce overcrowding to improve crossbites.

Crossbite Braces 

What It Is: Braces are an orthodontic appliance that consists of metal brackets that are cemented onto the teeth and connected by wires.

Who It Is For: Braces can be used to treat crossbites in people of all ages.

How It Works: Crossbite braces apply pressure to the teeth to gradually reposition them over time. Can braces fix a crossbite? They can be effective at correcting crossbites associated with crooked teeth and jaw deformities. Braces can also correct an overbite.


What It Is: Invisalign is a series of thermoplastic trays that are worn over the teeth throughout the day. They can be removed for brushing and at mealtime.

Who It Is For: Because Invisalign requires patients to be responsible and remember to wear the trays during the day, orthodontists typically only use them to treat crossbites in adults and mature teenagers.

How It Works: Does Invisalign fix crossbite? Invisalign works similarly to braces. The trays apply pressure to the teeth to move them into a new position. As the jaw moves, you progress through a series of custom designed trays until your teeth are properly positioned.


What It Is: Surgery to fix a crossbite implies breaking the jaw bone in strategic places, then using customized devices to widen the upper palate.

Who It Is For: Since surgery is an extreme case, this is only done to adults, since their jaw is no longer growing.

How It Works: Surgery can fix a crossbite, but this is a long and arduous process that can cost a lot of money. However, if nothing else works, your orthodontist will probably recommend this. Keep in mind that surgery does not only imply the surgery in itself, but also its aftermath, where you will have to wear a device that helps heal and mold your jaw.


Orthodontists and customers are split when it comes to the necessity of fixing a crossbite. If you are unsure of what to do, consult with your physician, and make sure you know all the pros and cons before deciding. If you think your child has a crossbite, or you suffer from one, an orthodontist can develop the best crossbite treatment plan for your problem. If you have any experience with crossbite treatment, let us know in the comments section. Your story can help other readers get the information they need about crossbites and crossbite treatment.

Recommended Read: Overbite Teeth Causes and Treatments

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