It may have looked cute when you were a child, as your front teeth stuck out, and were possibly even visible when your mouth was closed. Now, you feel like you’re stuck with jaw pain and difficulty with eating as opening and closing your mouth doesn’t come as easily.
Overbite is a real issue, but thankfully, there are ways to treat it—and even prevent it in early childhood. Let’s look at treatment options, and how to increase your child’s chances of good oral and jaw health as they grow up.
An overbite, also known as buck teeth, is the extension of your upper front teeth out over the bottom teeth. Most people have at least a slight overlap, which causes no problems.
More severe overbites can cause jaw pain, functionally overcrowded teeth, crooked teeth, and gum disease along with other dental issues if left untreated.
Ways to correct overbites include braces, clear aligners, and splints. Severe cases may require jaw surgery and a combination of orthodontic treatment.
Prevention of overbite can include stopping your babies from getting into the habit of thumb sucking, although some cases are genetic.
If you need or prefer to live with an overbite, oral hygiene and protecting your teeth from injury are crucial.
Overbite is technically known as a Class II malocclusion. A malocclusion is a type of teeth misalignment. Other common terms for overbite are deep bite and buck teeth. If you’re of the millennial generation, you may remember Chuckie from Rugrats and his always-there front teeth.
An overbite is where your front upper teeth project out over the lower front teeth . You may only notice it when you part your lips, or the angle may be so severe that your teeth project out of your lips. When comparing overbite vs underbite, remember they are named for the row of teeth that extends out in front.
The most common cause of overbite is genetics. Being born with a small lower jaw, overcrowded teeth, or misaligned bite is often hereditary. Other causes include tooth loss and poor childhood habits such as prolonged thumb sucking, use of a pacifier, lip sucking, nail biting, and tongue thrusting.
In many cases, there is only a slight overbite or minor overbite, where the upper front teeth extend over your lower teeth and cause no other symptoms.
Severe overbite can make speaking, eating, drinking, or even breathing more difficult or even painful. At night, trouble breathing could even result in sleep apnea. You can even be more likely to suffer from tooth decay, loose teeth (or tooth loss from injury), gum disease, and later on, jaw pain as the joints and muscles are affected .
An overbite is when your front upper teeth extend out over the bottom front teeth. It is often hereditary and may affect the way you speak, eat, drink, and breathe, as well as your dental health.
Overbites can originate from the alignment of your teeth or your bone structure.
Dental types of overbite involve the angles at which your teeth sit. For example, the angle between your top teeth and the facial plane that runs through your eyes and above your ears will be wider, as the teeth project outward. Additionally, the angle between your bottom teeth and the jawline will likely be smaller, because they are pushed underneath your top teeth .
Not only the teeth are involved in skeletal cases of overbite. The angles between your upper jaw and facial plane that runs through your eye, lower jaw and plane running through your nose, and positioning of your jaw joints can affect teeth placement .
The nature and severity of your overbite are dependent on the angles between your teeth overlap and bones, and/or between your bones and facial planes.
If you only have a mild overbite, you are unlikely to see any symptoms. More severe cases can cause painful or even disabling symptoms, however. These include temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, where there is pain when chewing or touching the jaw, tightness, or clicking. In people who receive treatment, these symptoms have been shown to reduce in severity .
Additionally, severe overbite can cause gum damage. The upper teeth may constantly bite into the gums in front of the bottom teeth, or your lower teeth bite into the gums behind your upper front teeth. Severe overbites can even prevent permanent teeth from erupting, as they are pushed towards the roof of the mouth .
The strain of an untreated overbite can affect bone modeling too. For example, research on tooth extraction has shown beneficial bone remodeling in the glenoid fossa, where your jaw bone connects to your skull .
An overbite may cause anything from a minor visual difference to temporomandibular joint disorder or periodontal disease.
An overbite will often only be diagnosed if your child already has permanent teeth. If they do, or you are seeking a diagnosis for yourself, you may simply have the degree of overbite measured with a ruler.
You may also be given an Oral Health Quality of Life (OHQoL) questionnaire, which includes several aspects of oral health. Physical health issues, including pain or difficulties with chewing and talking, are combined with psychological aspects such as social anxiety or distress. Total scores should not be prioritized over your specific concerns, for example, if you have no anxiety but have trouble talking .
Objective measurements with a ruler, as well as oral health-related quality of life, are used to diagnose the presence and severity of overbite.
Whether or not you get overbite treatment depends on the severity. A mild case that isn’t visible when your mouth is closed and causes no symptoms won’t require orthodontic treatments, but difficulty chewing or speaking could indicate the need for intervention. You may also request treatment if you feel insecure about your appearance.
Clear aligners are the most convenient treatment option we have, including the popular Invisalign for overbite. An impression is taken of your teeth, which is then used to design a series of aligners that provide gradual overbite correction and straighten teeth. They are a comfortable braces alternative, and can be removed to brush and floss your teeth more easily.
A study comparing aligners to traditional braces found that the treatments were roughly equal in correcting crooked teeth. However, aligners generally provided a shorter treatment duration, with an average of 26 months compared to 33 months .
Some aligners can even be prescribed remotely. Byte Aligners and Aligner Co both allow you to use an at-home impression kit, which is sent away so dental professionals can design your custom series of aligners. Both claim to result in the correct alignment within one year.
Traditional braces are now available as their original metal products, or “clear” ceramic or plastic options. All types of braces involve the use of brackets, which are adhered to your teeth, with wires and often elastic bands to push misaligned teeth into the correct alignment.
While traditional metal braces can make use of color to brighten your smile, clear braces are barely visible from a distance. Newer orthodontic care products have far less chance of being stained or warped, so the choice is yours .
While braces and aligners can only camouflage an underlying bone deformity, overbite surgery aims to correct it. In most cases, only the upper jaw is lifted, which moves its teeth out of the way. Some surgeries involve both lifting the upper jaw and bringing the lower jaw forward, but this requires more rigid fixation afterward .
In some cases, tooth extraction is necessary to produce beneficial changes to bone modeling. This treatment option can involve the removal of perfectly healthy teeth, such as premolars. Loss of premolars can be compensated for by remaining teeth, in this case, your several pairs of molars. This allows for the reduction in crowding without negative effects on your ability to chew .
Splints are often used alongside surgery to correct an overbite when it is severe. They provide some lifting and repositioning to prevent teeth overlap, and can improve facial structure when looking from the outside too. Eating is possible when using a splint, which may also speed up postoperative treatment after jaw surgery .
Treatment options to correct an overbite range from mail-order aligners and braces, to surgeries with accompanying tooth extraction and splints.
Some cases of overbite are not preventable. Genetics can influence bone structure, so if you or others in your family have an overbite, there is a higher chance that your child will develop one too. It may not be anything to worry about if treatment was not required for you or your family.
Otherwise, overbite prevention starts as soon as a child’s teeth start to appear. Research shows that “non-nutritive” sucking, such as with a pacifier or thumb sucking, increases the risk of overbite later on. These encourage tongue thrusting, which pulls the jaw backward (try forcing your tongue out now: feel the tension in the floor of your mouth!).
Encouraging your child to self-soothe with other methods may be helpful. Even if they are yet to see their baby teeth appear, it’s best to start early to benefit the development of their jaw shape. Baby teeth may fall out in elementary school, but they also “guide” permanent teeth into the positions they will settle in when it’s their time.
Use of a pacifier is related to a higher risk of Class II malocclusions, such as with the canine teeth, than with thumb sucking. By extension, we can assume that frequently drinking from a sippy cup could contribute to overbite, as it involves the same sucking movement .
Whether you aren’t ready for treatment yet, or you could only achieve partial success, you may simply have to live with an overbite.
As there is a higher risk of dental conditions such as tooth decay and gum disease with overbite, it is important that you visit your dentist regularly and practice optimal oral hygiene. The risk of tooth loss means that you must add a mouth guard into your dental care regime if you play contact or certain outdoor sports.
Finally, use of a splint or night guard can prevent teeth grinding or keep your rows of teeth separated from each other, so they don’t overlap and put too much pressure on each other or your gums.
Prevention of overbite starts from when your children are only babies, including minimizing the use of pacifiers and sippy cups. In cases where you cannot fully correct an overbite, oral hygiene and protecting your teeth are more important than they are for the average person.
What are the most important things we need to know about overbite?
Overbite is a very common type of teeth misalignment, with most people only having a slight to mild shift. However, serious cases can cause issues including jaw problems, such as temporomandibular joint dysfunction, and tooth decay.
Treatment for adults can correct an overbite and may involve the use of braces, aligners, splints, or even jaw surgery, but prevention is best where possible. If you have, or are planning on, a baby, remember to discourage thumb sucking and other causes of tongue thrusting as early as possible.