An overbite is a dental condition that isn’t generally painful but which can cause discomfort and health problems further down the line if it isn’t treated. Some overbites are hereditary and others have been caused by changes to the teeth in the mouth. Whatever has caused your overbite, it’s not as difficult as you might think to correct it – and the results could significantly improve your quality of life.
What is an overbite?
Medically referred to as a “malocclusion,” an overbite is a situation with your teeth where the upper teeth protrude out over the lower teeth by 30-50%. There are varying degrees of overbite and these are referred to in different ways. An overbite may be “horizontal” if the upper teeth protrude over the bottom teeth or it may be “vertical” if the upper teeth significantly overlap the bottom teeth. Some people may experience a little of both of these types of overbite. Although an overbite may often appear to be a problem with teeth that aren’t straight, what’s actually happening is that the upper and lower jaws are not lining up properly.
Do you have an overbite?
You can find out whether you have an overbite very easily. Just let your teeth close naturally together and see where the upper and lower jaws align with each other. You’ll need to look fairly closely at whether the jaws are aligned or whether the upper teeth are protruding – if they overlap or protrude by more than 3.5mm then you may have an overbite.
What causes an overbite?
An overbite could be caused by a number of different factors, including:
- Tooth loss. If you lose your rear teeth, in particular the molars, then this can result in a misalignment that causes an overbite.
- Thumb sucking. Many people who suck their thumbs as children end up with an overbite as this tends to cause a narrowing of the roof of the mouth. The sucking action eventually pushes the upper teeth forward into an overbite.
- Bad habits. For example, if you often push your tongue against the back of your top front teeth (such as when concentrating) this could be the cause of an overbite.
- Hereditary. Some overbites are hereditary and have been inherited from a parent.
An overbite is most likely to become apparent in younger children but that’s not always the case. You may find that your overbite is not obvious until later in life.
What are the consequences of an overbite?
A mild overbite may not cause any particular issues. However, if you’re living with a significant and uncorrected overbite then you may end up experiencing jaw pain, headaches or discomfort while eating, problems opening and closing the jaws and even difficulty speaking. You may also find that the overbite alters the appearance of your face.
How to correct an overbite
There are a number of different options available if you’re looking for treatment to fix an overbite. These include:
- Traditional braces. Wire and bracket braces are fixed to the teeth with the aim of bringing the upper teeth back in line with the lower teeth. Bands, coils and springs can be used to realign the jaw. The treatment will usually take anywhere between six months and two years.
- Invisalign. Invisalign works in the same way as traditional braces but using removable clear retainers that gradually move the teeth back into line. The aligners are worn 22 hours a day and changed every two weeks. Treatment usually takes between nine months and a year.
- Surgery. In more extreme cases of overbite, surgery may be required to realign the teeth and jaws.