What is an Overbite?
An overbite, often known as a deep bite, is a dental misalignment characterized by an excessive vertical overlap of the upper front teeth over the lower front teeth when the back teeth of the upper and lower jaws are in occlusion or in contact with each other. While a slight overbite is required for healthy dentition, the upper teeth should not overlap more than one-third of the crown of the front lower teeth.
Types of Overbite
Overbites may be classified as:
- Skeletal Overbites: A skeletal overbite occurs when the upper and lower jaws are not properly aligned.
- Dental Overbites: A dental overbite occurs when the upper and lower teeth are not properly aligned.
Overbites may also be classified as mild, which may not cause significant dental problems; and severe, which can lead to significant dental problems. The most serious type of overbite is an impinging overbite. When the mouth is closed, the lower teeth hit the palate behind the upper teeth, causing damage to the bone around the upper front teeth. This may lead to the loss of the upper front teeth as well as significant soft tissue injury.
What happens if an overbite is left untreated?
An overbite, if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems including:
- Tooth decay including cavities, gum disease, and worn tooth enamel
- Jaw pain
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Severe headaches
- Discomfort or pain while eating
- Trouble with fully opening or closing the mouth
- Sleep apnea
- Difficulty speaking
Causes of an Overbite
Some of the causes of an overbite include:
- Irregularities in the growth of the jawbone structure may be an inherited condition
- Overcrowding of teeth
- Thumb-sucking or prolonged use of a pacifier
- Excessive nail-biting or chewing on the ends of pencils or ponytails
- Teeth grinding
- Excessive tongue-thrusting, which can move the tooth out of alignment
Symptoms of Overbite
The most noticeable symptom of an overbite is that your top front teeth overlap most of your bottom front teeth. Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty fully opening or closing the mouth
- Discomfort while eating
- Jaw pain
- Speech challenges
Diagnosis of Overbite
Your dentist will review your symptoms and perform a thorough physical examination. The dentist may take dental X-rays to further examine the overbite and how your teeth are aligned. If the overbite is severe, you may be referred to an orthodontist who specializes in tooth and jaw alignment.
Treatment of an Overbite
Overbite correction is different for children and adults. If an overbite is diagnosed during childhood, treatment may involve:
- Removal of baby teeth or making room for permanent teeth to grow in proper alignment.
- Using a growth modification device to help better position the jaw
- Braces to gradually move the teeth to correct the overbite
- Retainers, which are post-brace devices that help to keep the teeth in their proper place
In adults, treatment may involve:
- Tooth removal to give the remaining teeth more room and freedom to move into their correct positions
- Use of braces to help move the teeth affected by the overbite
- Surgery to correct jaw alignment. In this procedure, the jawbone is cut, reshaped, and repositioned by the surgeon. Adults with severe overbites and fully developed jaws usually need surgery.