Overbite: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

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Overbite, or buck teeth, occurs when your top front teeth extend beyond your bottom front teeth. Many people have a slight overbite. A more severe overbite may lead to tooth decay, gum disease or jaw pain. You can prevent children from developing an overbite by limiting thumb-sucking and pacifier use.

What is an overbite?

An overbite, also called buck teeth, is a misalignment of the teeth. It occurs when your upper front teeth protrude (stick out) beyond your lower front teeth.

Overbite is a type of malocclusion. This term describes any misaligned or crooked teeth.

Buck teeth explained

Buck teeth are as previously mentioned, also known as an overbite or malocclusion. It’s a misalignment of the teeth that can range in severity.

Many people choose to live with buck teeth and not treat them. Late rock icon Freddie Mercury, for instance, kept and embraced his severe overbite.

Others may prefer to treat their overbite for cosmetic reasons.

Still others may need treatment to avoid complications, such as damage to other teeth, gums, or the tongue from accidental biting.

The cause, severity, and symptoms play a role in if and how you should treat buck teeth


Overbites vs. Overjets?

Another term in orthodontics is overjet. Some people use the terms overjet and overbite interchangeably. But while these conditions are similar, they’re not the same.

In both cases, your upper teeth protrude over or in front of your bottom teeth. But with an overjet, the upper teeth protrude past the bottom teeth at an angle.


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How does an overbite affect the body?

A minor overbite may not cause any noticeable health issues. However, an uncorrected overbite may lead to:

Breathing challenges.

Jaw pain or temporomandibular disorders (TMD).

Difficulty or pain while chewing.

Tooth decay or cavities.

Gum disease.

Speech problems.

What causes overbite?

In some cases, an overbite is hereditary (runs in the family). Genetic traits, such as your jaw shape, can affect the alignment of your teeth.

Other causes include:

Excessive nail biting.

Tongue-thrusting, when the tongue presses too far forward into the mouth.

Teeth grinding (bruxism).

Using a pacifier, especially past the age of 3.

Thumb-sucking, or nonnutritive sucking behavior (NNSB), that occurs past the age of 3


How can I prevent overbite?

Sometimes overbites occur due to uncontrollable factors, like genetics.
In children, you can help prevent overbites by:

Avoiding sippy cups with spill-proof valves.

Limiting pacifier use starting around age 3.

Discouraging thumb-sucking past infancy.

Scheduling a dental visit by age 1.

Overbite correction: How to fix an overbite

Overbite correction is different for children and adults. If an overbite is caught during childhood, treatment may involve:

Growth modification devices, or palate expanders, used during growth spurts to re-position the jaw.

Removal of baby teeth or permanent teeth to make room for adult teeth.

Braces to slowly move all the teeth into correct alignment.

Retainers to keep the teeth in alignment after braces.

In adults, treatment may involve:

Braces to move only the teeth affected by the overbite.

Teeth removal to allow the remaining teeth more room.

Surgery to correct jaw alignment.

When should treatment for overbite teeth begin?

Traditional braces are considered the standard of care for correcting severe overbites and overjets. They can also correct crowded or crooked teeth, or a misaligned jaw.

What types of braces are best for overbites?

Traditional braces are considered the standard of care for correcting severe overbites and overjets. They can also correct crowded or crooked teeth, or a misaligned jaw.

These types of braces are made from metal or ceramic. They’re attached to each tooth and connected to each other with wire. This aligns and straightens crooked teeth on both the top and bottom of the mouth. Once the teeth are straight, coils, springs and bands are added — together, they help to shift and align the jaw into place.

Traditional braces are not removable at home and are usually worn for one to three years. During this time, your orthodontist will adjust and tighten your braces as needed, usually every month or so.

Traditional braces provide constant, consistent pressure on teeth over time, to move them slowly into their optimal position. Since traditional braces can’t be removed at home, they’re usually the quickest, most effective way to correct most types of overbites.

After your braces are removed, you may need to wear a retainer. This removable device may be worn full time or only during sleep, per your orthodontist’s instructions. It’s used to help your teeth and jaw maintain their alignment so that your overbite doesn’t return.

Correcting an Overbite with Overbite Braces

Braces are effective for treating most overbite problems. As part of the assessment stage, x-rays help determine the overbite type and the relationship between the teeth and jaw. Braces are then attached to the top and lower arches of the teeth.

The arch wire first straightens and aligns the teeth. During the second stage of braces, elastics (small rubber bands) may be used to slowly shift the jawline into the correct position. The bands are fitted on the brackets from top to bottom or front to back to help move the teeth and jaw. The bands are removed before eating, drinking and brushing teeth and replaced. It is important to wear the bands at all times so constant pressure is applied. Wearing them on and off can cause the teeth and jaw to ache more often.

The final stage of treatment is to wear a retainer or use a permanent wire to keep the teeth in the desired place.

Some patients have the choice of the more concealed options of ceramic or lingual (inside) braces or Invisalign aligners to fix their overbite. It’s best to consult your orthodontist before deciding on the treatment type you want as not all treatment types are suitable for every case.


Overbite: Before & After Orthodontic Treatment

Overbites are a common orthodontic condition. They usually respond very well to orthodontic intervention, using braces or Invisalign, or, in severe cases, a combination of orthodontia and oral surgery.

Below, you’ll find some before-and-after photos of overbites that were treated with orthodontia alone by using Invisalign or braces (no surgery required).

Can Teeth Aligners like Invisalign be used to correct overbites?

Clear aligners like Invisalign are less obvious in the mouth than traditional braces. They must be worn for at least 22 hours daily but can be removed while you’re eating or brushing your teeth.

Aligners can be used to correct minor-to-moderate overbites and overjets. They don’t provide consistent enough pressure to correct severe overbites. You also must be committed to wearing the aligners all the time. When the aligners are not in your mouth, there’s no force on your teeth and they won’t move.

Frequently asked questions about overbites

Clear aligners like Invisalign are less obvious in the mouth than traditional braces. They must be worn for at least 22 hours daily but can be removed while you’re eating or brushing your teeth.

How do I know if I have an overbite?

You can assess your overbite at home: using a mirror, smile to show your teeth while biting down gently. If you can see only 50% of your lower front teeth or less, you may have an overbite. To confirm whether you have an overbite, consult an orthodontist to learn about treatment options.

Do braces fix overbites?

First things first, let's get the answer to this question out of the way: yes, braces can absolutely correct an overbite. The question makes sense, though: after all, overbite is usually a problem of the relationship between the upper and lower jaws. Braces use a metal archwire laid out across the teeth to correct alignment problems – but how can they correct the relationship of the jaws themselves?

Is overbite normal?

A small overbite is appropriate for a normal bite: this is about 1 to 3 mm. More than 3 mm is considered too large of an overbite and requires orthodontic treatment.