What's an Overbite and How Can You Treat it?

People with overbites have an alteration in the way their upper teeth relate to their lower teeth that doesn't allow them to bite properly. Keep reading to find out about the causes and treatments, and how you can prevent it.
What's an Overbite and How Can You Treat it?

Last update: 01 June, 2021

An overbite is a common alteration in the way a person chews. It’s when the upper teeth cover the lower teeth or are very far away from them.

This poor dental positioning can be so slight that only a dentist can detect it. Alternatively, it can be so pronounced that the person is unable to shut their libs completely because of their protruding teeth.

This could be an aesthetic issue that the person who has it wants to correct. However, in reality, if they don’t treat it, it could lead to health complications.

In this article, we tell you the causes and complications of overbites. Also, we show you the alternative treatment options specialists may use to correct it, according to the age of the patient.

Keep reading and learn more about these “rabbit teeth.”

Types of overbites

As we have already mentioned, an overbite is an alteration in the way the upper teeth relate to the lower teeth. However, there are different kinds:

  • Horizontal: This is when there’s a space that’s bigger than normal between the edge of the upper incisors and the outer part of the lower incisors. When it comes to biting, the upper pieces surpass the lower pieces by more than 2/25 of an inch, which is the usual distance. So, the upper teeth are far away from the lower teeth.
  • Vertical: This is also known as a deep bite, this is when the individual goes to bite and the upper incisors cover more than 40% of the lowers. If the distance between the edge of the upper teeth with that of the lower is more than 2/25 of an inch then you’re facing an alteration.
  • Mixed: This is a combination of both of the above. The upper incisors are far away from the lowers and they cover them too much.

What causes an overbite?

Different factors can cause an inadequate relationship between the upper and lower teeth. Below, we detail the most common:

Genetics and hereditary

There are cases where an overbite is hereditary. Generally, several members of the same family will have an overbite; they may have been born with a small lower jaw or large upper jaw.

Dysfunctional habits

Some repetitive and non-functional habits that children form can influence the development and growth of their bones and the position of their teeth. The following habits can cause an overbite:

  • Thumb-sucking: The habit of sucking a finger or thumb is a dysfunctional habit that prolongs non-nutritive sucking behavior. These repetitive movements and the pressure generated by the finger can cause the palate to develop abnormally and the teeth to grow at the wrong angle.
  • Use of a pacifier: This is another non-nutritive suction habit that can cause an overbite. Using a pacifier for a prolonged amount of time, after the child reaches 2 years old, can cause alterations.
  • Pushing with the tongue: The pressure of the tongue against the teeth can push them away. Although this habit usually causes another type of poor dental positioning called an open bite, it can also cause an overbite. Anatomic alterations, such as inflamed adenoids, tonsillitis, difficulties swallowing correctly, stress, and sleep problems can all cause this habit.
pink pacifier held up
If the child uses a pacifier for longer than suggested, it may cause alterations; among those, we have the overbite.

Poorly positioned teeth

A lack of teeth, too many teeth, some retained teeth, too much space between the teeth, or dental crowding can all cause the teeth to move. This can affect the correct position of the incisors, which in turn causes an overbite.

Tumors and cysts

The presence of a tumor or a cyst in the bone can change the position of the teeth, changing their correct alignment. A lump or a hard/soft tissue growth in the upper section of the mouth can cause the incisors to move forward, causing an overbite.

Possible complications

An overbite doesn’t just aesthetically affect the person that has it. It can also affect other ways their mouth works, causing different problems:

  • Changes in speech: an overbite can cause the person difficulty when it comes to pronouncing phonemes involving the upper incisors and the lips.
  • Breathing problems are associated with the cause of poor dental alignment.
  • Difficulties biting, chewing, and eating properly
  • Damage to other teeth: enamel wear, and increase in the risk of cavities, gingivitis, and dental fractures.
  • Changes to the appearance of the face.
  • Pain in the temporomandibular joint, head, and neck.

Available treatment for overbites

The objective of these treatments is to correct the incorrect relation between the upper and lower teeth. So, specialists aim to achieve a more aesthetic and functional bite to improve the quality of life of the patient.

In no circumstances should you ever move your teeth in a home treatment. Applying force on your teeth to move their position should be done in a gradual and controlled way. Doing it at home in your own way is a huge risk and comes with the possibility of causing a lot more damage than you may already have.

The way specialists may correct an overbite depends on when it’s done, whether the patient is a child, adolescent, or adult, the severity of the problem, and the cause. A dentist will evaluate these aspects and propose the best solution for each case in particular. The treatments may be surgical or non-surgical.

Surgical treatment for an overbite

If an overbite is serious and an orthodontist can’t fix it, this is the treatment of choice. Only adults can have this as their bones will have stopped growing.

In these cases, the origin of the overbite is a bone problem and surgery is the only possibility to create a correct relationship between the upper and lower jaw. During this treatment, the specialist will move the upper jaw bone backward and the lower jaw bone forward, depending on the case.

The patient will need a combination of pre and post-operation fixed braces to complete their treatment. In cases where the overbite is caused by a lack of space in the mouth, the specialist will extract some teeth to relocate the others.

Non-surgical treatment for an overbite

Orthodontic treatment with different types of tools is the first option to solve the problem. Choosing the method will depend on the age, origin, and severity of the case.

Some alternatives are as follows:

  • Interceptive orthodontics: Children between 6 and 11 tend to have this type when it comes to dental replacement. It guides and corrects the growth of the jawbones as they continue to develop. This kind of early treatment allows for specialists to obtain a correct relationship between both bones and avoid more difficult, traumatic, long, and expensive procedures in the future. Specialists can use palatal expanders to treat an overbite. This adheres to the molars and has a screw that gradually separates the two teeth.
  • Fixed braces: These are fixed to the teeth and are useful for correcting an overbite in adolescents and adults. In this case, they don’t correct bones but they do move the teeth to allow an acceptable harmony between the upper and lower teeth.
  • Invisalign: This is an alternative orthodontic treatment with an invisible and removable apparatus. Both adults and adolescents can use these. The treatment consists of the individual using a series of transparent aligners that have been specially made for them that cause the teeth to move. They help to align the teeth and move them to create an adequate relation between the upper and lower teeth. This achieves a similar result obtained by fixed braces, but in a much more aesthetic way.
fixed braces close up of mouth
The treatment options for an overbite vary between surgical and non-surgical. Fixed braces are typically only used for adolescents and adults.

Is it possible to avoid developing an overbite?

Some factors predispose people to develop an overbite that can’t be avoided. In those cases, if there are already alterations in the way other members of the family bite, consulting an orthodontist early is the best way to avoid future problems.

Furthermore, it’s essential to control the actions and habits in children that favor the development or aggravation of this problem. Prevent children from using pacifiers or feeding bottles, sucking their fingers or thumb, and pushing with their tongue can help to prevent this issue.

Early and regular visits to the dentist are always the best options to detect any problem. If you have a child, consulting a dentist before the baby reaches one and visiting an orthodontist from 6 years old allows you to address any alteration at an early stage. It also helps you to avoid more expensive and complicated treatments in the future.

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