Overbite vs. Normal

There is something pleasant about having clean and pearly, white teeth. But have you ever asked yourself if you have an overbite?

About 70% of the human population has an overbite to some degree. So how would you be able to determine if you have an overbite and how mild or severe it is?

Here’s the thing: Some people suffer from malocclusion, one type of which is an overbite.

But before contemplating how you can fix it, let’s first take a look at what exactly the situation is and the reasons it may occur.

What is an Overbite?

“Overbite” is a common name for a malocclusion. The term malocclusion derives from the word “occlusion,” referring to the alignment of your teeth.

A malocclusion is a variation or misalignment from a normal occlusion. Underbites, overbites, crossbites, and open bites are all kinds of malocclusions. It is called overbite when the upper teeth stick out too far beyond the lower teeth.

Malocclusions can fall into one of three classifications:

  • The first class is the most common type of malocclusion. It occurs when a normal bite is guided by a slight overlap of the upper teeth.
  • Class two is diagnosed as a severe overbite or often called retrognathic.
  • Class three is most commonly known as severe underbite. It is when the lower teeth overlay the upper teeth and it’s referred to as prognathic.

What Causes an Overbite?

Most overbites are due to heredity or genetic factors. The most common reason for an overbite is the shape and size of the jaw or the teeth. This could indicate having too much space in the jaw area or too little space to accommodate one’s teeth. If not treated, the overbite will cause the teeth to crowd with each other and grow crooked or too space if the jaw area is too large. 

In infants and children, mannerisms like thumb-sucking, consistent pacifier use, and overuse of baby bottles can lead to an overbite.

In teens and adults, the continuous habit of nail-biting and chewing of objects such as pencils or other items can cause an overbite. Succumbing from teeth loss without timely repair can also lead to an overbite.

As the American Dental Association stated, almost 70% of children show signs of having an overbite.

Here are other known causes of overbite:

Thumb-sucking

Your parents told you that sucking your thumb could cause an overbite, and they were telling the truth.

Thumb-sucking is related to non-nutritive sucking behavior (NNSB), indicating that the sucking motion isn’t giving any nutrition as it would from nursing.

When this lasts past the age of 3 or 4, or while the permanent teeth are rising, the tension created by the sucking and the finger can create the permanent teeth to come in at an abnormal angle.

Pacifier

Sucking on a pacifier is another mode of NNSB. It can create an overbite the same process that sucking on a thumb can.

According to an analysis published in 2016 in the Journal of the American Dental Association, pacifier use was linked with a higher risk of acquiring malocclusions than thumb-sucking.

Tongue-thrusting

Tongue-thrust happens when the tongue pushes too far forward in the mouth.

While this normally results in a malocclusion known as “open bite,” it can also sometimes result in an overbite. The situation is most typical in children, but it can carry on into adulthood.

It can be caused by different things, such as chronically enlarged adenoids or tonsils and poor swallowing habits. It can also be due to stress among adults, as some tend to thrust their tongues during sleep.

Genetics

Some people have an uneven jaw or a small upper or lower jaw at birth. An overbite or prominent front teeth is often genetic, and your parents, siblings, or other relatives may also have a similar condition.

Missing extra, or impacted teeth

Spacing or crowding can alter the alignment of your front teeth, causing an overbite. Missing teeth leave your remaining teeth to change over time, altering the position of your front teeth.

On the other side, not having adequate space to accommodate teeth can also cause alignment problems. Crowding can happen when you have extra teeth or impacted teeth.

Tumors and cysts of the mouth or jaw

Tumors and cysts in the mouth or jaw can also alter the arrangement of your teeth and the shape of your mouth and jaw. This occurs when persistent swelling or a growth — either soft tissue or bony — in the upper part of your mouth or jaw makes your teeth move forward.

Tumors and cysts in the oral cavity or jaw can also result in pain, lumps, and sores.

Different Types of Overbites

When it gets to overbites, there are two main types: dental and skeletal:

Dental Overbite

This type of overbite happens when your teeth aren’t correctly aligned. In such circumstances, your lower jaw may be properly balanced with your upper jaw, but the misalignment of your teeth makes your lower jaw force back towards your neck.

Typically, non-surgical approaches work well for this type of overbite improvement for adults.

Skeletal Overbite

With this type of overbite, your lower jaw seems a bit smaller to fit your upper jaw. As a result, the upper rows of teeth are pushed a bit forward over your small jaw.

Skeletal overbites normally demand surgical solutions to realign the jaw.

How to Measure an Overbite?

The average overbite is approximately 2 – 4 mm. This is a normal range where both your upper and lower teeth will be aesthetically pleasing to look at.

If your overbite is smaller, your lower teeth will be more obvious. When there is a more prominent reduced overbite or none at all, it’s referred to as an anterior open bite.

With an anterior open bite, there’s normally a space between your upper and lower teeth when your jaws are closed.

Several patients feel that this isn’t very attractive. If your overbite is increased, some of your lower teeth will show. In severe situations, this can lead to decay of your lower teeth or even trauma to the gums on the back of your upper central teeth.

If you believe you have an overbite, a consultation with an orthodontist should be your first step. Overbite correction will be essential to your treatment.

Overbite Measurement at Home

  • Close your lips together normally. Set your teeth in their normal posture and make sure you are not tensing your jaw. 
  • Look at yourself in the mirror and make a wide smile.
  • Check if your upper front teeth will create an overlap with your lower front teeth.
  • If the overlap exceeds more than 3.5 mm, you have an off teeth alignment, an overbite.
  • Another method to determine if you have an overbite is to see if the lower row of teeth is pushing into the roof of your mouth.

Visiting a dentist or an orthodontist is highly advised if you deem that you have severe overbite. 

What Will Happen if I Don’t Treat It?

Fixing an overbite may just be a matter of desiring to improve your appearance and smile. But you need to understand that if an overbite is left uncorrected, it can cause a wide range of dental and health problems.

If left untreated, an overbite could cause several health difficulties. This includes an irreparable damage to teeth from irregular positioning and possible jaw pain like temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ).

Other overbite complications involve:

  • Tooth decay involving gum disease, cavities, and worn tooth enamel
  • Jaw pain
  • Severe headaches
  • Difficulty or pain while eating
  • Difficulty with fully opening or closing mouth
  • Sleep apnea
  • Difficulty in speaking

An untreated overbite could also dramatically change a person’s facial construction, causing a low self-esteem. If an overbite in early childhood severed and kept on worsening, the aesthetic deterioration could occur as early as pre-pubescence.

In some cases, overbites make speech difficult. As a result, you might suffer speech difficulty or you may find it hard when pronouncing certain words.

An overbite can also make chewing hard and result in gum damage. This occurs when your lower front teeth come into contact with the gum line in the rear of your upper front teeth. The upper teeth hit the gum line, resulting in your gums dropping.

Damaged gums can result in tooth loss and gum disease. What’s more, an overbite can result in tooth corrosion and damage, and even sleep apnoea.

Jaw pain is another outcome of an uncorrected overbite. Misaligned jaws can lead to chronic jaw pain and even headaches, adding to the development of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD).

If your overbite is causing difficulties, it’s necessary to make an appointment with your orthodontist or oral surgeon for treatment.

In any situation, for both children and adults, the best way to stop dental issues from happening is to make sure you visit a dentist early and often.

It is prescribed for children to get a checkup by age 7 for the apprehension of an overbite. Adults require to get regular checkups every six to twelve months to secure early intervention and avoid the potentially severe physical consequences of leaving an overbite untreated.

How to Correct an Overbite?

In normal cases, your dentist will refer you to an orthodontist for overbite repair. Overbites tend to be easier to handle in children since a child’s jaw is still growing. However overbite correction for adults is very common.

Overcrowded teeth are the most typical problem for teens. But for adults with an overbite, it is the lack of early preventative treatment that usually leads to severity.

When you seek treatment, your orthodontist will check the area and build a treatment plan that may last for two or more years depending on the level of severity of your overbite.

Your orthodontist will begin with x-rays, to conclude what kind of overbite you have and the link between your jaw and teeth. From here, they will produce a treatment method.

Overbite Braces

Most overbite correction is normally done via braces. Braces are very effective and, when followed up with retainers, the outcomes are everlasting. This is a long-term treatment that normally takes between one and two years, sometimes more.

Invisalign

Invisalign braces are an effective method of overbite correction for light to moderate cases. Although almost hidden, these braces drive the teeth to a much better placement, modifying a deep overbite into a normal overbite. Patients normally change to a new set of invisalign aligners every two weeks.

Retainers

In a few situations, it’s possible to repair an overbite with a detachable retainer.

This works in the same approach as braces, slowly driving the teeth into the correct alignment. In orthodontic treatments, retainers are a requirement to wear to prevent your teeth from slipping back into their old position.

Headgear

Headgears are only used for severe bite cases. They are usually worn only at home and are most common in children, as they work with your child’s jaw as they grow. 

Surgery

Skeletal problems can cause a jaw to be too far forward, ending in a severe overbite. In this situation, a jaw correction surgery (also called orthodontic surgery) is needed.

When the mandible (lower jaw) has not developed correctly, surgery can enhance its shape. Overbite treatment through surgery includes one or more of the following procedures:

  • Teeth removal
  • Jaw repositioning
  • Insertion of screws
  • Addition of plates around the jaw

There is no noticeable scarring through these operations as most of the work is done inside the mouth. Patients can return to school or work after 2-4 weeks. In most cases of overbite surgeries, hospitalization is only done over-night. However, orthodontic treatments may be carried both before and after the surgery to guarantee the alignment of teeth. 

You may be questioning how much overbite surgery costs. An Overbite Surgery is usually really expensive and may cost anywhere between $20k – $40k without insurance. This is the reason insurance will only cover treatment if your dentist requires it to be medically important.

Living with an Overbite

If you prefer to live with your overbite, here are several things that you can do to maintain dental health and avoid problems due to misalignment:

  • Practice good oral hygiene.
  • Have regular dental exams.
  • Use a mouthguard while you sleep or at times of stress if you tongue-thrust.
  • Protect your teeth with a mouthguard when engaging in high-impact sports.

Importance of Early Treatment

If the problem was not handled properly at an early age, the overbite can worsen. As the teeth are worn down by all the clenching and grinding, the overbite will eventually just become more prominent.

If your overbite makes it hard to correctly clean your teeth and gums, then this could also lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and even tooth loss. Because you are even more troubled by pain due to the headaches and tooth and jaw pain because of your overbite, your nutrition will also suffer. No one feels like eating when you are in pain.

Any problems or difficulties, if left unchecked, an overbite can lead to a slippery slope of lots of dental health issues. By engaging in early orthodontic care, you will save yourself from having more difficult oral or facial surgery later in life.

Final Thoughts

Over time, several options have become available to fix adult overbites. But no matter which option you choose, it’s always essential to seek professional orthodontic advice first.

There are various alternatives available for overbite repair for adults. The best one for you will depend on the level of severity of your overbite, your budget, and how long your treatment will take.

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