Can An Underbite Cause Sleep Apnea?

Yes, it is possible that an underbite can contribute to sleep apnea.

Studies have shown that there may be a correlation between the two.

Sleep apnea is very common. It is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, which can lead to snoring, fatigue, and other health problems. On the other hand, an underbite is a dental condition where the lower teeth and jaw extend beyond the upper teeth and jaw. It can cause problems with chewing, speaking, and yes, breathing.

While an underbite may not directly cause sleep apnea, it can contribute to the development and severity of the condition. In this article, we will explore the relationship between an underbite and sleep apnea, and what you can do to alleviate the symptoms.

How can an underbite contribute to sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. It is caused when the upper airway becomes blocked, often due to soft tissue collapse. OSA can cause a person to wake up frequently throughout the night, leading to poor quality of sleep and fatigue during the day. While anyone can develop sleep apnea, certain factors can increase an individual’s risk of developing the disorder. An underbite is one such factor that has been linked to OSA, as it can lead to airway obstruction and poor positioning of the jaw while sleeping.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the jaw muscles can also be affected by an underbite, leading to pain and discomfort throughout the day. This can also contribute to poor sleep quality, further exacerbating the symptoms of OSA.

What is an underbite?

An underbite is a detrimental misaligned dental condition which involves the lower jaw protruding beyond the upper jaw. Clinically known as a prognathism, an underbite can have varying levels of severity and can affect between 5 and 10 percent of the population. It may result in pain, discomfort, and self-consciousness for those affected, with protrusion visible to both dentists and patients alike during a regular dental examination.

Underbites are categorized into their clinical stages according to how severe their malocclusion or misalignment is. In Class III malocclusions, the lower teeth overlap or sit in front of the upper teeth when an individual bites down on food or speaks. This classifies the misalignment as more serious than other types. Depending on its severity, various treatments may be recommended by a dentist in order to correct an underbite, such as orthodontic braces and surgery if need be. As far as prevention goes, timely visits to a dentist throughout life should help minimize chances of developing this type of malocclusion over time.

What causes an underbite?

Underbites are primarily determined by genetics, and are likely to run in the family. It’s important to remember, however, that a variety of other childhood behaviors can contribute to the development of an underbite too. Factors like extended thumb sucking, pushing the tongue up against the teeth repeatedly, mouth breathing, or using a pacifier or bottle for too long can all cause an underbite as well. A 2012 scientific study showed that thumb sucking combined with pacifier use after age 3 was correlated to malocclusion, and especially an underbite in particular.

It is not simply genetic traits which determine whether someone will develop an underbite; there are many environmental factors which could influence it as well. This is why it is important to break bad habits early on in life like finger and thumb sucking. Speech therapy might help with breaking those subsequent jaw misalignments commonly found among people who have experienced malocclusion from misalignment in childhood due to these behaviours. Consultation with a dentist can identify any signs of an underbite early on so that you can plan effective treatments accordingly.

What Are the treatment options?

The treatment of an underbite and sleep apnea are closely related. In most cases, orthodontic treatment is necessary to correct the misalignment of the teeth and jaw. Braces or other dental appliances may be used to gradually realign the teeth into proper position. This will help improve oral health, reduce jaw pain, reduce bad breath, and even improve sleep quality. However, more severe cases may require surgery in order to achieve desirable results.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are several treatment options available. Oral appliance therapy is one of the most common treatments for mild to moderate cases. This involves wearing a custom-made device to hold the jaw forward during sleep, helping to keep the airway open and prevent obstruction. For more severe cases, positive air pressure (PAP) therapy may be necessary. This involves wearing a mask during sleep that delivers pressurized air into the airway to help keep it open. In some rare cases, surgery may be required in order to treat OSA.


An underbite can contribute to the development of obstructive sleep apnea by causing airway obstruction and altering jaw positioning while sleeping. Orthodontic treatment is typically recommended in order to correct the misalignment of the teeth and jaw, helping to reduce pain and improve sleep quality. For those with OSA, there are several treatment options available, including oral appliance therapy, PAP therapy, and even surgery in some cases.

Can an overbite cause sleep apnea as well?