If you or your child has an overbite, you may be looking at options for correcting it.
There are several different types of treatment which your orthodontist may recommend. The type most likely to work will be determined by the severity of the overbite, as well as other factors, including its underlying cause.
Braces are a common solution for improving an overbite. Aligners may also be considered.
In this article. we’ll look at the different types of braces you might wish to consider and explain why they may or may not be a good choice for an overbite.
Many people use the term “overbite” to describe upper teeth that extend well past the lower teeth. Another slang term for this misalignment is “buck teeth.”
Orthodontists, however, use the term overbite to describe the overlapping of lower teeth with upper teeth. They then categorize the overbite from normal to severe, depending on how far the top teeth extend past the lower 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.
The cause and severity of your overbite determine the type of braces to use
The cause, severity, and symptoms of your overbite (or overjet) determine what types of braces are best to use.
Overbites and overjets can be caused by hereditary factors, such as the shape of your jaw. Other causes may include overcrowding of teeth or missing teeth in the lower jaw.
Habits that occur in early childhood, while the jaw is still growing, may also cause overbites or overjets. These include:
- thumb sucking
- pacifier use
- long-term bottle use
- tongue thrusting
- nail biting
- chewing on objects, such as pencils
- mouth breathing
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.
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.
Appliances like headgear are an option for kids and teens who are still growing. These appliances can help correct an excess gap between upper and lower teeth and are often used with traditional braces to align the upper and lower jaw.
Most of these appliances either hold the growth of the upper jaw or position the lower jaw such that the jaw joint develops differently and adapts to the new position of the lower jaw.
When an overbite or overjet is too severe to be corrected by braces alone, orthognathic (jaw) surgery may be recommended.
Orthognathic surgery can be used to correct a misalignment of the jaw bones. Misalignment of the jaw bones can occur if the maxilla (upper jaw) and the mandible (lower jaw) grow at different rates.
Jaw surgery is used to modify and realign the jaw bones. It usually requires that traditional braces also be worn, before and after surgery.
Working to help your child stop habits, such as thumb sucking, may reduce their need for braces. However, once the teeth are flared out, it’s less likely that at-home treatment can alter their shape.
As with anything that seems too good to be true, it’s important to be leery of internet treatment options that promise to fix flared teeth, even if before-and-after photos are displayed to convince you.
Altering the alignment of the teeth and jaw requires accurate pressure, applied appropriately and slowly, over time. When this process is not done correctly by a licensed dental professional, serious injury to the teeth and jawbone can result.
Only a dentist or an orthodontist can safely treat a severe overbite or overjet.
An overbite is a common dental condition, which can range from mild to severe. Traditional braces are the most commonly used treatment for this condition.
Minor or moderate overbites may be corrected with an aligner, such as the Invisalign braces.
Very severe gaps between the upper and lower teeth that are caused by misalignment of the jaw bones may require surgery, as well as braces.