An overbite may pose problems to both your dental and overall health. Difficulty speaking and chewing, gum damage, sleep apnea, and jaw pain are a few of the non-aesthetic results of an overbite.
Identifying an overbite is the first step to fixing one. With a few at-home steps you can gauge whether or not you may have an overbite. If your dentist diagnoses you with an overbite, you’ll then be referred to and schedule a consultation with an orthodontist, someone who specializes in correcting bites, occlusion, and straightening the teeth.
What Is an Overbite?
You’ll know if you have an overbite when your upper front teeth overlap with your lower front teeth. An overbite is referred to as a misaligned bite, or malocclusion, because the upper and lower jaws do not line up when you bite down. Most people have a little overbite. Problems occur when overbites are pronounced or bothersome.
What Causes an Overbite?
An overbite is usually the result of a spacing issue related to the mouth and jaw. It occurs when there is too little or too much room for the teeth. Without enough room, your mouth may struggle to accommodate all of your teeth, forcing them to overlap. Too much room, on the other hand, may cause your teeth to be spaced too far apart. This kind of spacing issue can be hereditary or environmental.
Other causes of an overbite include:
- Genetics – An overbite may be passed down through your genes. It could be helpful to provide your dentist or orthodontist with a background knowledge of your family’s dental history, especially if misaligned bites run in your family.
- Poor oral habits as a child – Poor oral habits as a child can carry over into your adult life. An overbite may develop as the result of thumbsucking, nail biting, prolonged bottle feeding, or pacifier use. Each of these habits causes the tongue to push (or thrust) against the back of the teeth, causing the upper teeth to protrude. Parents should make sure to correct these kinds of habits in their children and instead encourage healthy hygiene practices.
- Grinding teeth – Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is another potential cause of overbite. Bruxism could be due to stress or something that occurs in your sleep without you knowing. You can generally tell if you grind your teeth at night by looking at the inside of your mouth. If you see a protruding white line on the “skin” inside your mouth at the space where your upper and lower teeth meet, you may be grinding your teeth at night.
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction – The temporomandibular joint connects your jawbone to your skull. A dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint, called TMJ for short, could also be the source of an overbite. Symptoms of TMJ include clicking and locking of the jaw joint, difficulty chewing, and jaw pain.
An untreated overbite may grow worse over time, leading to more pain or discomfort. If you suspect you or your child may have an overbite, it is a good idea to reach out to your dentist. It is also worth it to note that malocclusion, bruxism, and tongue thrusting are common dental problems in children with disabilities.
How Is an Overbite Diagnosed?
You can generally identify an overbite simply by looking in the mirror — though a certified dentist or orthodontist is needed to confirm this diagnosis.
Perform the following steps to gauge whether or not you may have an overbite:
- Look at your face in a mirror.
- Place your teeth together naturally.
- Keep your jaw relaxed and do not force your teeth together.
- Open your mouth wide so you can get a full scope.
- Check to see if your upper front teeth are falling over your lower front teeth.
- In some cases, you may feel that your lower front teeth touch the roof of your mouth.
Treatment Options to Fix an Overbite
Generally, your dentist will diagnose an overbite and refer you to an orthodontist if treatment is needed. Costs and financing depend on the treatment option you choose, though surgery may be the most expensive.
Below are the most common treatment options used to fix an overbite:
Removal of Teeth
In children and teens, one treatment option is to remove the baby teeth, allowing room for the adult teeth to grow in straight. Adults, on the other hand, usually only have teeth removed when an overbite is severe. Also referred to as extraction, removing teeth is common in cases of severe crowding.
Growth Modification Devices
Growth modification devices are another option for children and teens, particularly those going through a growth spurt. These devices work to reposition the jaw without the use of surgery.
A few devices used to reposition the jaw include:
- Twin block;
- Mandibular anterior repositioning appliance;
- Face mask.
Braces and Retainers
These are a great option for children and teens, but may not be as effective in adults. Since children and teens’ jaws have not fully developed, it is more likely that braces will be successful in them than in adults. Treating an overbite with braces can take anywhere from 6 months to two years, depending on the severity of the bite.
Surgery is the best option in extreme cases of malocclusion, especially for adults. Such extreme cases revolve around a skeletal problem, where the jaw is no longer developing nor as flexible as it once was.
Orthognathic surgery, or corrective jaw surgery, is usually performed inside the mouth to eliminate the risk of scarring. Depending on the severity of your bite, surgery can take one or more procedures. Healing can take anywhere from 6-12 weeks. Before surgery and during the recovery period, patients wear braces to continue aligning their teeth.