Overbite: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Orthodontic Treatment

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What is an Overbite? What Is it? How To Diagnose, Treatment Methods, and More

There are many different dental conditions treatable with orthodontic care – one of the most common is an overbite. An overbite is a too-large overlap between the top teeth and the bottom teeth. A proper bite requires a small overbite – generally 1 to 2 mm – but the front teeth should fit over the bottom teeth and not leave a  between them. When the overlap is too large, this is called an excessive overbite.

There are a variety of overbites, with different complexities involved in treatment. For that reason, each condition is unique, and the orthodontist devises a unique treatment plan to straighten teeth safely and effectively for each specific case. Overbites are one of the most common reasons people seek orthodontic treatment, and orthodontists are very skilled at correcting this problem!

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about overbites: what they are, how they happen, and what orthodontists can do to treat them.

Orthodontic X-Ray of Overbite Patient

What Is an Overbite?

An overbite is a vertical-plane overlap between the top teeth and the bottom teeth. While a small overbite is necessary for a proper bite, it shouldn’t overlap too far: the top teeth should close over and in front of the bottom teeth.

An overlap of more than 2-3 mm is considered an excessive overbite and should be treated by a licensed experienced orthodontist.

Different Types of Overbites

There are two main types of overbite: skeletal and dental, or a combination of both. A skeletal overbite results from irregular jawbone development, causing the teeth and jaws to grow improperly.

What is an overbite

dental overbite is caused by an external interruption of dental development, for instance from crowding or loss of back teeth or bad oral habits.

Orthodontists measure the severity of the overbite on a percentage scale based on the degree of overlap between top and bottom teeth: the overbite could be 30%, 50%, or 100%. The larger the percentage, the more severe the overbite, and more complex treatment is required.

An impinging overbite is considered the most severe form of overbite: this condition causes the lower teeth to touch the palate behind the upper teeth when the mouth is closed, which slowly damages the bone surrounding the upper front teeth. This can result in the loss of the upper front teeth and/or excessive trauma to the teeth.

The majority of overbites can be treated successfully with only proper orthodontic intervention: occasionally, some severe overbites may require oral surgery as well to achieve the best results, in addition to orthodontic care.

Severity of Overbites

Type of Overbite  Width of overbite (mm)  Cause  Percentage Severity  Requires Orthodontic Intervention 
Normal 1 to 3 mm Usually dental 30% Possibly
Deep 4-8 mm Dental or skeletal 50% Likely
Severe 9mm or more Dental or skeletal 100% Yes
overbite-vs-overjet

Overbite vs. Overjet

An overjet is distinct from an overbite: in an overjet, there is a horizontal gap between the top front teeth and the bottom front teeth (people sometimes call this “buck teeth”). Those with excessive overjet likely will have excessive overbite as well; an experienced orthodontist will treat both conditions at the same time.

overbite-vs-crossbite

Overbite vs. Underbite/Crossbite

An underbite is the opposite of an overjet: in an underbite, the upper front teeth come down behind the bottom front teeth when the mouth is closed, rather than in front as in a healthy bite. Another term for underbite is crossbite, which can be in the front or in the back of the teeth.

What Causes an Overbite?

There are several reasons why overbites occur:

  • Genetics is one cause: these overbites are called skeletal overbites because they result from irregularities in the growth of the jawbone structure. The shape and development of bones are generally caused by particular genes inherited from your parents or relatives.
  • Overcrowding can cause an overbite, as the teeth jostle for position. Crowding can occur for a variety of reasons: loss of the back teeth from excessive wear and tear can cause the remaining teeth to the crowd, causing an overbite.
  • Sometimes external factors cause an overbite: these issues result in dental overbites. Thumb-sucking or prolonged use of a pacifier can sometimes cause overbites. Bad habits like nail-biting or chewing on the ends of pencils or ponytails can also cause an overbite or overjet.

Whatever the cause of an overbite, they are a common dental condition. Finding an orthodontist with years of experience is key to successfully correcting an overbite.

Your teeth are in good hands with a licensed, experienced orthodontist who is an expert in treating overbites!

Is an Overbite Bad for Your Teeth?

If you suspect your child has an overbite, we advise you to visit your local orthodontist for an expert opinion. The AAO recommends children see an orthodontist beginning at age 7.

An untreated overbite can get worse over time, and may cause lasting damage to your teeth, bones, and jaw structure. Overbites can impact speech, cause facial pain, and make it harder to maintain good oral hygiene, resulting in gingivitis and/or periodontitis.

Overbites may cause discomfort or pain, and make you feel embarrassed about your smile. But it can also do lasting harm to the health of your mouth.

If an overbite is left untreated, it can eventually cause a host of problems: loss of teeth, increased crowding, difficulties brushing or flossing, headaches, jaw locks, pain while eating, gum disease, periodontal disease, or other related dental problems.

Remember: orthodontic treatment is not simply cosmetic. A healthy smile with straight teeth and a proper bite is critical for lifelong health and quality of life! A healthy mouth is the key to a healthy body.

How To Treat an Overbite

Overbites are common, well-researched, and usually treatable when corrected by a licensed, experienced orthodontist. Orthodontic doctors study for years to safely and effectively straighten teeth, so an experienced orthodontist will have plenty of expertise when it comes to treating overbites.

There are multiple tools that your orthodontist can use to treat overbites.

Orthodontic Patient with Ceramic Braces

Metal or Ceramic Braces

The most common tool used by orthodontists, braces have helped many millions of people young and old achieve straight teeth and beautiful, lasting smiles.

Most orthodontic providers offer several types of braces treatment: metal brackets can be paired with colorful rubber bands (popular with kids and teens), while ceramic brackets use clear or tooth-colored material that diminishes the appearance of braces. Adults love ceramic braces for their subtle look.

Make sure to find an experienced orthodontic provider who can use braces to treat your overbite: choose a dedicated orthodontic practice, rather than a general dentist.

Orthodontists study for an extra 2-4 years to master the art of teeth alignment, which gives them a great deal more experience in the subject than general dentists. Plus, they exclusively straighten teeth, rather than spread out their work over lots of different dental interventions, so they have years of practical expertise, and all the necessary equipment, technology, and instruments to create outstanding results.

Person Holding Invisalign Aligner with Case

Invisalign Clear Aligners

Invisalign clear aligners are also an excellent choice for correcting overbites, as long as you choose an experienced orthodontist, preferable a Diamond Plus Invisalign Provider. This treatment uses a series of clear plastic aligners, custom-molded to your teeth, that slowly and safely move them into their correct positions.

While other clear aligner brands have cropped up offering similar invisible braces treatment, Invisalign has continued to lead the industry in innovation and design, for optimal results and maximum effectiveness. Choosing an experienced orthodontist that offers Invisalign means you have access to patented technology, clinically proven to enhance treatment, including SmartTrack™ aligner materialsSmartForce™ attachments, and iTero® 3D scanning. These innovative tools allow your orthodontist to correct your overbite more quickly, and with more precise movements, than other aligner brands.

It’s also critically important to see a licensed orthodontist in-office for your clear invisible braces treatment. Many mail-order aligner companies offer treatment from home without ever having you see a professional in-person: this can have serious consequences for the outcome of your treatment and for the safety and health of your teeth and mouth. American Association of Orthodontists has recently issued a consumer advisory warning against the use of these at-home kits.

Thousands of consumer complaints have been filed against mail-order aligner brands for failing to correct teeth or for permanently damaging them. Skip the teledentist: get your treatment from an orthodontist in-office, who directly supervises your care, carefully monitors your progress while correcting your overbite, and can answer all your questions or concerns.

Oral Surgeon Performing Dental Surgery

Surgery

For very severe overbites, oral surgery is sometimes the best option in combination with comprehensive orthodontic therapy. It is very rare, but for those cases that require serious intervention, oral surgery can provide outstanding results for correcting severe overbites.

Surgery is more common for severe skeletal overbites in adults, whose teeth roots and bones have already firmly developed, and are harder to move. Orthodontic care is most effective in children, whose bones are still growing, so even a severe overbite is more easily treatable in children and likely will not require surgery. The majority of adults can also be treated successfully with orthodontic therapy alone.

If your condition requires surgery, your orthodontist will refer you to an oral surgeon. You will be treated with a combination of surgery and orthodontia, using one of the methods described above.

Retainers

Retainers

While retainers can’t correct an overbite, they are very important for protecting the results after the overbite has been treated. Whether braces or Invisalign, you will be provided with a retainer or multiple retainers to maintain the results of your treatment. Your orthodontist will schedule a 6-month follow-up visit to monitor your results.

Be sure to wear your retainer properly so the overbite doesn’t come back!

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