Would you like to know how to fix an overbite?
Everybody wants pearly white, clean, and straighter teeth. These are the things that constitute a perfect smile. The sad truth is most people have some forms of malocclusion, ranging from overcrowding, spacing, overbite, underbite, openbite, overjet, crossbite, diastema, etc. One of the most common (and recognizable) malocclusions out there is overbites. It is so common that it actually has a nickname – buck teeth. But what causes a dental overbite? And more importantly, how do you fix it? Here’s everything you need to know on how to fix an overbite.
A malocclusion is called overbite when the upper teeth stick too far from the lower teeth. This happens when the top jaw and teeth overlap the lower jaw and teeth. This problem can be vertical or horizontal and can be skeletal or dental (or a combination of both).
Vertical overbite happens when the top set of teeth overlaps the bottom. It is called horizontal overbite when the top teeth (especially the two front teeth) protrude over the bottom teeth.
Types of overbite
Skeletal overbite results from irregular development of the jaw bone, which causes the teeth and jaw to grow incorrectly and unfittingly.
Dental overbite, on the other hand, is an overbite caused by an outside interruption in the development of the jaw and teeth, such as crowding of teeth, bad oral habits, or loss of back teeth. These interruptions cause the teeth to grow in the wrong positions.
Dentists and orthodontists measure overbite severity using percentages based on the degree of overlap between the upper and lower teeth. An overbite can be 30%, 50%, or 100%. The larger the percentage, the more severe the malocclusion is, and the more complex treatment plan is needed for the overbite correction.
Normal overbites are 1 – 3 mm in width. It is usually a dental type and usually measures around 30% severity. Orthodontic intervention is possibly needed.
Deep overbites are 4 – 8 mm in width and can be dental or skeletal. They are usually at 50% and will likely need orthodontic intervention.
Severe overbites are 9mm (or more) in width. They can be dental or skeletal, with 100% severity that definitely requires orthodontic intervention.
The most severe form of overbite is called impinging overbite. This happens when the lower teeth reach and touches the palate (behind the upper teeth) of the mouth when the mouth is closed. This is often caused by loss of upper front teeth due to excessive trauma to the teeth. Severe overbite like this can cause serious damage to the bones that surround the upper teeth.
Fortunately, most overbites can be treated with orthodontic intervention. Severe cases may require invasive interventions like oral surgery to achieve the best results, aside from orthodontic care.
Common causes of overbite
Small lower jaw
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, the small lower jaw is the most common cause of overbite cases. When the upper jaw is bigger than the lower jaw, it can cause alignment bite problems for the teeth. The lower set teeth may continue to grow upwards until they reach the upper teeth or roof of the mouth. As the lower teeth grow, however, they become overcrowded, resulting in teeth alignment problems.
Oral health problems and bad childhood habits
Bad childhood habits like thumb sucking, lip sucking, tongue thrusting, and prolonged use of feeding bottles and pacifiers can have bad effects on the development of teeth, which often leads to jaw problems. This affects the shape and size of the mouth, palate, and jaw. Constant sucking can cause the top teeth to slant out, and the bottom set of teeth to tilt in, resulting in a pronounced overbite or buck teeth. Thus, a child who constantly sucks their thumb (or fingers) past the age of five is at higher risk of pushing their upper jaw bone and upper teeth too far forward.
Though temporary, baby tooth plays an important role in the development of permanent teeth. Losing them too early can cause the adult teeth to erupt or shift in the wrong direction, causing a misalignment. The American Association of Orthodontists even said missing a lower tooth can result in a condition similar to having a smaller lower jaw, which causes teeth and jaw misalignment.
Overly developed bite muscles
People with overly developed bite muscles are at higher risk of developing overbite problems. This often results from excessing jaw clenching and teeth grinding, which also damages the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and results in TMJ disorder.
Many cases of crooked, misaligned teeth and severe overbites are inherited from genetic backgrounds. It is unfortunate, but some people are born with malformed jaws that are unevenly developed. Others may be born with jaws that are too small or too big, which affects the spaces of the teeth, resulting in various types of malocclusions. If one has an overbite, he/she is likely (and unfortunately) born with it, rather than developing it in his/her lifetime.
What happens if you don’t treat your overbite?
Overbite can be unsightly, which can definitely affect one’s self-esteem. But that’s not the only reason why people should correct an overbite.
If left untreated, malocclusions like overbite can cause serious health complications, such as irreparable teeth damage caused by misalignment and wrong positioning, and possibly even jaw problems like TMJ disorder. Other health complications caused by overbite include:
- Stress and wear and tear of teeth which leads to worn tooth enamel, crooked teeth, tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease
- Pain such as severe headaches and jaw pain
- Discomfort and pain while eating
- Problems with chewing
- Difficulty speaking
- Trouble with fully closing and opening mouth
- Sleep apnea (chronic snoring)
- Trauma to the roof of the mouth
Long-term, untreated overbite can also change facial structure, which can lead to several problems with self-esteem. Severe overbite during childhood can get worse, leading to aesthetic deterioration as early as pre-pubescence.
How to fix an overbite: treatment options for overbite
As said earlier, overbites can be fixed and there are plenty of options available to correct an overbite. Correcting an overbite depends on the severity of the malocclusion. However, the choice of treatment depends on the age of the patient, severity of the overbite, and type. The earlier an overbite is fixed, the lower the risk for developing dental issues like gum disease, cavities, and TMJ disorders.
Some of the most established options include:
- Invisible aligners
- Tooth extraction
Braces are the most established treatment for most forms of malocclusions, including overbites. As part of the treatment plan, the orthodontist assesses the stage and severity of the overbite through x-ray. This helps in determining the type of overbite and the relationship between the upper set of teeth and the lower set. Braces are attached to the top and low arches of the teeth.
For children with overbites, dental experts recommend waiting until the child turns seven years old to seek treatment. This is the age where primary teeth start to shed and permanent teeth erupt.
Braces treatment for adults is still possible, but options can be quite limited since the teeth and jaws are already fully developed and can be harder to move.
Different types of braces
Some patients can opt for more concealed options, such as ceramic or lingual braces. The former uses clear or tooth-colored materials that diminish the brace’s look. They are subtle, and most adults prefer this type. Lingual braces, on the other hand, fit inside the mouth, making them almost invisible.
For most types of braces, retainers are prescribed after completing the treatment. This ensures the teeth remain in place.
While braces are considered the most effective, they aren’t always the most practical. Braces treatment, whether traditional metal braces, ceramics, lingual, or self-litigating braces can cost from as low as $3,000 to as high as $12,000 for the whole treatment. Fortunately, there is a cheaper option called a clear aligner. The most popular clear aligner treatment for malocclusions in the market today is Invisalign.
Clear aligners such as Invisalign are less obvious in the mouth compared to traditional braces. They are removable, which makes them easier to clean, and easier to brush and floss your teeth.
The aligners must be worn at least 22 hours a day for 8 months (or more). It can be removed when eating, brushing teeth, playing sports, or any physical activity.
It is important to note though that, clear aligner treatment is usually only used for mild to moderate malocclusions. Also, the time needed for clear aligners to correct the bite problems varies from one person to another. For severe overbites, the orthodontist will likely recommend traditional braces.
There are cases where jaw problems and skeletal overbite need more than braces to fix the malocclusion. In this case, surgery is required to reposition the jaw. Surgery is also required for people with severe and significant complications in their overbite, especially if the jaw bone is misaligned.
As with most surgeries, patients are given an anesthetic so they don’t feel (or even remember) the procedure. The surgeon will then proceed to reposition the jawbones; they may add or take some bone out, or even reshape the jaw.
Once the jaws are aligned, the surgeon will add surgical plates, screws, and wires, to keep the bones in place as the patient heals. The majority of the incisions are inside the mouth, which means less visible scarring. Patients are advised to change their diet and take better care of their oral health for a few weeks as their mouth heals.
While it takes a few months for the jawbones to heal completely, most patients can go back to their regular routine after a couple of weeks from the oral surgery.
Some patients may benefit from tooth extractions. It is less invasive and can correct overcrowding. This gives your teeth freedom to move.
The tooth extraction process starts with the use of a local anesthetic. This will numb the area of the tooth that will be extracted. The tooth will be pulled out while you are awake. Obviously, you will need to avoid eating (and chewing) hard food for a couple of days as you heal to avoid complications.
Can overbite fix itself?
Unfortunately, no. Overbites, as well as other malocclusions, will not fix themselves over time. This means orthodontic treatment is necessary to fix the dental problem. Fortunately, it can be resolved, and there are tons of options available for you.
Consult your dentist/orthodontist today and get that straighter teeth and beautiful smile you deserve!