Understanding Overbite: Causes, Consequences, and Correction Strategies

By
Limestone Hills Orthodontics
on
December 26, 2023

Rodrigo F. Viecilli, DDS, PhD

Orthodontist Austin TX

Struggling with an overbite? It’s a prevalent dental problem where your upper teeth jut out over your lower teeth, and it’s not just a cosmetic concern. Left unaddressed, an overbite can invite a host of dental woes. Our article lays out the causes, highlights signs to watch for, and unpacks treatment pathways for an overbite, equipping you with the necessary insights to fix even a severe overbite and take control of your dental health.
    • An overbite is a dental condition where upper teeth overlap beyond the normal with lower teeth and can have consequences such as jaw pain and difficulty in chewing if not treated.
    • Overbites are categorized into skeletal, resulting from jawbone irregularities, and dental, stemming from teeth alignment issues, both of which can cause significant dental health problems.
    • Treatment options for overbites vary by severity and type, including braces, Invisalign, surgical interventions, and special retainers, and should be overseen by an experienced orthodontist for optimal results.

Defining Overbite vs Overjet: Common Dental Misalignments

Lack of overbite.
Understanding Overbite: Causes, Consequences, and Correction Strategies 21
In the example above, there is zero overbite and zero overjet. SO, in the battle of overbite vs overjet, this is a tie (joking). We call it an edge to edge bite. When the upper teeth overlaps the lower ones excessively, more than 20-25%, and horizontally the horizontal gap is 2-2.5mm to the bottom teeth it is known as a normal bite (normal overbite and normal overjet). We don’t want to confuse you, but many patients think overbite is how much the upper front teeth naturally protrude compared to the lower teeth (some patients also vulgarly call it horizontal overbite or buck teeth). Technically orthodontists call the horizontal distance between upper and lower teeth Overjet and refer to Overbite as the overlapping of upper front teeth over lower front teeth. We call Underbite the same thing patients do, when lower teeth project ahead of the upper front teeth. Don’t ask us why. All a matter of tradition in language, which is different in patients and in orthodontic theory. In the figure below, we use the term overbite the way patients use, although in technical orthodontics language the correct term is Overjet. These dental misalignments can be severe and increase one’s risk of gum disease, difficulty speaking or chewing and jaw pain. Typically 2-3mm overlap between upper and lower teeth indicates a normal overbite while anything above 6mm is considered deep or extreme. Skeletal vs Dental Overbites are two distinct classifications determined by irregularities of either the Jawbone (skeletal) or alignment between Upper/Lower teeth (dental). A skeletal type overbite occurs due to malformations with bones many times associated with long occurrence of bad oral habits, such as thumb sucking through the end of adolescence, whereas a dental overbite results from discrepancies among tooth placement mainly on top frontal areas like incisors for instance. It is important to have this condition on the front teeth treated properly so consulting your dentist should be done if you suspect any issues associated with your bite patterns such as those mentioned earlier, i.e serious discomfort when talking & eating plus increased chances of developing crooked teeth, tooth decay, periodontitis etc.

Causes of Severe Overjet and Severe Overbite

The selection of effective treatments can be aided by having a clear understanding of what a normal bite is and the various kinds of overjet and overbites. A skeletal overjet (when upper teeth protrude due to a protruded upper jaw), which could result in an outward appearance likened to that of ‘buck front teeth’ and possibly require surgery on the upper jaw or lower jaw for corrective measures, is primarily caused by irregularities with the jaw structure. On the other hand, a dental overbite type may emerge due to misalignment issues among teeth. This most often appears as extreme protrusion from upper front teeth above lower frontal ones if left untreated it could potentially lead to mouth breathing, TMJ issues, tooth decay or gum disease. Tooth decay and gum disease must always be addressed before orthodontic treatment even if crowded teeth or crooked teeth are present and an esthetic concern. Both these forms are often present simultaneously, but not always. Typically, a deep overbite occurs in the presence of a large overjet (buck teeth), but not always. Sometimes an excessive Overjet can can be caused by a forward tongue posture (the tongue presses against the teeth, often in between) or tongue pressure, especially when swallowing, what we call tongue thrusting. in the figure below, you see a tongue thrust with lack of overbite (open bite) and increased overjet (buck teeth). Due to the bad tongue position, you also see a crossbite on the posterior teeth due to lack of stimulation of the width of remaining teeth on the palate by the tongue’s normal position when swallowing. In this case, of a tongue thrust, buck teeth or overjet can be accompanied by an open bite. Therefore, when the lack of a skeletal overbite occurs, we have a skeletal open bite which often requires the cooperation of an oral surgeon specialized in orthognathic surgery with the orthodontist for full correction especially of adult buck teeth. Genetics play an important role in the occurrence of severe overbite, with certain inherited traits such as jaw shape and teeth misalignment potentially resulting in this condition. On top of that, childhood habits like prolonged pacifier use, mouth breathing, thumb sucking, a lip trap or lip chewing may also be contributing factors to developing an misaligned lower jaw which leads to overcrowding of especially the bottom teeth. The size and structure dictated underdeveloped lower jaw by genetics are usually what determines if someone will have a predisposition towards acquiring an overbite.

Signs and Symptoms of an Overbite

It is important to be aware of signs and indications that point towards an overbite, as early detection can greatly improve the success rate of treatment. These signals include when top front or top teeth together overlap bottom front or top teeth together, as well as 50% visibility of lower tooth sets even with baby teeth present, which could signify an overbite diagnosed a dental issue in more permanent cases. Detecting these symptoms at an earlier stage should not go overlooked.

Potential Health Issues Arising from Untreated Overbite

Neglecting an untreated overbite can have serious repercussions for the mouth. For example, TMJ pain is often a problematic overbite as a result of stress put on this joint from having too crowded teeth or much overlap between upper and lower teeth, as it is impeded to grow forward, resulting in pressure in the retrodiscal area of the TMJ or on the lower front teeth themselves which can become crowded or chipped. It can also lead to bruxism (teeth grinding) or clenching and cause lateral jaw pain (facial pain) and headaches.
teeth, tooth, pain
Understanding Overbite: Causes, Consequences, and Correction Strategies 22
Oral hygiene may be compromised due to difficulty brushing away food particles in tough-to-reach spots caused by the overlapping. This could eventually lead to tooth decay and gum disease if not addressed properly soon enough. Remaining teeth might struggle with producing certain sounds accurately without adequate treatment as well. It’s more difficult for those affected by an overbite to form tongue tip or sibilant language correctly than other individuals who don’t suffer from such problems because their bite isn’t misaligned or causing strain on pronunciation muscles near the jaw line regionally. Treating this condition before any long term harm comes about should be taken seriously so that one’s overall dental health will remain intact through time! Deep overbites occur very often associated with TMD (temporo-mandibular joint disorders)

Diagnosis and Assessment of Overbite Severity

During regular examinations, dentists can spot an overbite and take X-rays to assess the teeth’s alignment. The intensity of this condition is determined by measuring how much vertical overlap there is between upper and lower teeth: in a normal situation it should be up to 30% or 2-4mm deep. A “normal bite” has no notable differences among these two sets of eaters. Diagnosing early on as well as accurately assessing its severity are both essential for successful treatment options regarding the overbite issue.

Treatment Methods to Fix an Overbite

When it comes to overbite correction, there are a variety of options available. Such as braces and Invisalign, and accessory appliances such as palatal expanders, Herbst or MARA, Activators, Bionators and many others. The orthodontist will discuss the cause of your overbite and overjet and treat it accordingly. It’s typically not difficult for a trained orthodontist to treat an overbite when it is mild to moderate. Jaw surgery may also be used in more extreme cases, especially in adult teeth and jaws, or when other orthodontic treatments have been unsuccessful to fix an overbite. A removable retainer can also be employed with the goal of slowly moving teeth back into their correct positions. Once treatment for an overbite has concluded, many people find that wearing retainers is necessary in order to prevent their teeth from shifting out of place again. Retainers help ensure long term stability after corrective measures have taken place by holding the newly aligned position securely of permanent teeth until they become stabilized naturally. Using retainers post correction should always be discussed thoroughly between patients and dentists alike before making any decisions about future care plans regarding your teeth alignment maintenance.

Braces and Invisalign Clear Aligners

Braces and orthodontic appliances are a reliable method to treat minor overbite to severe to a full correction, moreso during childhood and adolescence than for adults. We can correct even extreme overbite and overjet in youngsters, but in adults a complete correction is more difficult. This approach works by rearranging the teeth for correct alignment, modifying the upper jaw in position as well as supporting with special rubber bands or devices designed to move forward the lower jaw in the proper position in order to address this issue. It can also involve extractions of upper permanent teeth in the case of extreme overjet, when the esthetics of this alternative is favorable. Sometimes, surgical orthodontics (jaw surgery combined with braces) is the best option. Clear braces offer an invisible solution when compared with traditional metal types, while still serving its purpose of correcting overbites successfully. Speaking it can take between one year and two years until completion combined with costs varying from $1,800 up to $7000 dollars depending on certain circumstances which could involve using elastic bands alongside their respective appliance for better effectiveness moving forward with fixing this problem on your lower jaw region. For those with slight overbite to moderate overbite cases, Invisalign clear aligners are an innovative orthodontic treatment solution. Thanks to advancements such as the Mandibular Advancement feature, these braces offer a versatile option for correcting bite problems. Invisible in most situations, cleaning and removal is easy making them ideal especially for school-aged wearers who might become targets of bullying when seen wearing metal brackets and wires. Costing between $2,650-$7000 it’s important not to rely on mail order forms of this type of an orthodontic treatment appliance which can lead to subpar outcomes or even dental injury due to their lack of expertise during fitting and ongoing monitoring.

Surgical Intervention

Skeletal overbites can be severe issues of irregular jawbone development and are usually accompanied by severe deep bite (excessive overbite) In order to fix severe overbites and overjet, especially when the entire growth period was accompanied by bad habits such as mouth breathing, thumb sucking and lip traps, jaw surgery, may be required. This type of procedure involves realigning the jaw bones in combination with other orthodontic treatments both before and after the operation. These steps guarantee improved alignment of teeth for a successful result. Patients are asked to stay overnight at hospital following this kind of treatment as well as taking 2-4 weeks off school or work during recovery time period afterwards.

Prevention and Early Intervention Strategies

The American Association of Orthodontics highly recommends children to visit an orthodontist before age 7 for more efficient treatment and diagnosis of overbite. Early intervention is the key to preventive care when it comes to this type of dental issue, which means addressing childhood habits such as non-nutritive thumb sucking or tongue thrusting can greatly influence a child’s dentofacial and dental development throughout. Also, consistent dental check-ups are essential in order maintain good oral hygiene and intervene early if irregularities occur so that long term problems related to bad bite alignment don’t show up down the line.

The Importance of Choosing an Experienced Orthodontist

When it comes to treating overbites, selecting a qualified orthodontist is essential for achieving the desired results. This specialist has been trained in aligning teeth and creating a straight smile that also factors in overall facial alignment as well as long-term dental health of the patient. With their knowledge and skill sets acquired through two additional years of specialized studies after graduating from dentistry school, experienced orthodontists have an undisputed superiority when realigning crooked teeth compared to general dentists. Hence why it’s key to choose one who can offer optimum treatment options concerning all matters related to tooth placement or manipulation.

Summary

It is essential to have an orthodontic patients full understanding of the symptoms, causes and potential health risks associated with overbite for optimal oral hygiene. Professional help should not be delayed if you or a loved one are struggling with this problem as correct treatment can only occur through experienced orthodontic intervention utilizing techniques such as braces, Invisalign or surgery. Early diagnosis coupled with suitable therapy solutions could resolve any issues successfully associated with an overbite.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to have an overbite?

Having a slight overbite may be okay. If it gets severe to an overbite bad to the point that your lower teeth become hidden, then an orthodontist should be consulted.

What causes overbite?

Certain behaviors such as thumb sucking, pacifier use, a lip trap, extra teeth and nail biting can have an influence on the growth of a person’s jaw, which is one common cause for severe overbites. This issue appears to be mainly due to genetic factors, but it has been determined that these practices contribute significantly too, and so may speech problems, although their role is not yet completely understood due to their intermittent nature.

How do you fix overbite?

One way of fixing an overbite is to get braces and use rubber bands combined with bite pads (glue or acrylic placed strategically on the teeth or with accessory appliances called bite blocks), which help slowly bring the teeth back into their correct positions, or to fix the misaligned jaw. For those not wanting a traditional approach treat an overbite, clear aligners are another alternative. In more extreme cases overjet (thought by patients as horizontal overbite), it may be required to have surgery performed on your mouth. Keeping all these facts in mind will allow you to pick the best option for addressing your overbite problem with regards to how quickly it should be corrected or if aesthetics is important too!

Can an overbite correct itself?

Overbites are misalignments of only the teeth or jaw that cannot adjust on their own and must be professionally treated, through orthodontic intervention or even oral surgery in more serious cases. Thus, any minor or overbite correction often will not correct itself without help from an expert’s hand.

What is an overbite?

The misalignment of the front teeth overlapping beyond the lower ones excessively, referred to as an overbite, can bring about oral health difficulties. The issue excessive overbite is identified when a person’s top set of incisors are out in front of their bottom row straight teeth and erupt excessively.

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