Overbites: Causes, Complications & How To Fix Them

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What is an Overbite? Types & Causes

Overbites (buck teeth or deep bite) are class II malocclusions. It occurs when the upper jaw overlaps the lower jaw. It is usually a difference in jawbone alignment, when the lower teeth and jaw are back too far. This form of malocclusion is common but less common than a class I malocclusion (crowded anterior teeth).

overbite malocclusion scaled 1

Overbites develop in childhood and can either be genetic, due to long-term childhood habits, or both. These habits include tongue thrusting, excessive pacifier use, and finger or thumb sucking.

There are two types of overbites, including:

Skeletal Overbites

The most common cause of an overbite is due to the size and shape of a child’s teeth and jaw (genetics). A person’s mouth can either be too large or have too little space to fit teeth properly. If left untreated, this form of malocclusion can also result in overcrowding, crooked teeth, or spaced teeth.


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Dental Overbites

Childhood habits that involve pushing the tongue against the back of the teeth can cause an overbite. This includes long-term pacifier and bottle use, finger sucking, and thumb sucking. If a child already has an overbite due to genetics, these habits can worsen the condition. Breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea, are also linked to this form of malocclusion.

Other common causes of an overbite include, but are not limited to:

  • Losing baby teeth prematurely without restorations, which can result in misalignment.
  • Breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea, which is caused by a blockage in the upper airway while sleeping and results in breathing that repeatedly “stops” and “starts.”
  • In people of all ages, frequent nail-biting and chewing on hard objects can result in an overbite.

Underbite vs. Overbite

An underbite is the opposite of an overbite and occurs when the lower jaw is pushed forward, rather than backward. Although, underbites develop due to similar factors, such as genetics.

underbite malocclusion scaled 1

Overbite Complications

Overbites should never go uncorrected. If children do not receive overbite treatment early, they are more likely to need jaw surgery as adults. Severe pain, jaw problems, and dental conditions can also result over time. Common complications of an untreated overbite include:

Increased Risk for Tooth Decay

Children, teens, and adults who have overbites are more likely to develop cavities. This is because the enamel wears away faster, which creates the perfect environment for cavities to form.

Increased Risk for Gum Disease

In a severe anterior overbite, the lower front teeth usually contact the gum line in the back of the upper front teeth. This can result in gum recession, which is when the gum tissue wears away and exposes more of a tooth or a tooth’s root. Gum disease, such as gingivitis or periodontal disease, is more likely to develop.

Severe Jaw Pain & Temporomandibular Disorders (TMJ)

TMJ causes severe pain and dysfunction in the jaw and muscles that control jaw movement. Without overbite treatment, TMJ can form over time. Common symptoms include extreme jaw, neck, and face pain, stiffness, lockjaw, headaches, and earaches.

Other complications of untreated overbites include:

  • Difficulties chewing, speaking, and swallowing
  • Severe headaches and discomfort
  • Crooked teeth and structural mouth changes
  • Low self-esteem

How to Fix an Overbite: Common Treatment Options

The type of treatment depends on the patient’s age, the severity of misalignment, and whether the overbite is skeletal or dental. The earlier an overbite is corrected, the less likely cavities, gum disease, and TMJ will develop. Orthodontists recommend waiting until a child turns seven years of age to seek treatment (once the primary teeth begin to shed and permanent teeth erupt). Treatment is still possible for adults, but options are limited since the teeth and jaw are fully developed. Depending on the patient, surgery is typically necessary for adults.

Common treatment options for overbites include:

Tooth Extractions

Baby tooth extractions are a common overbite treatment option for young children. If a child has a smaller jaw, extracting teeth makes room for permanent teeth to grow in straight. Orthodontists do not recommend removing permanent teeth in adults. Although, in extreme cases, extractions may be necessary to allow the teeth to move easily.

Can Braces Fix an Overbite?

Dental braces that incorporate brackets, elastics, and wires successfully treat most overbites. The devices carefully apply pressure to adjust the teeth into the correct alignment. Braces treatment lasts for 18 months to three years. The use of adjunctive intraoral appliances (Herbst appliance) in conjunction with braces, is also common.

Can Invisalign Fix an Overbite?

If you are looking for a less noticeable overbite treatment option, Invisalign (or another clear aligner brand) might be a good option for you. Talk with your dentist to see if you are a candidate for treatment and compare costs.

Cervical Pull Headgear and Overbites

In addition to braces, cervical pull headgear may be necessary. This type of headgear consists of a strap that is worn around the neck and attaches to the patient’s braces. The appliance holds a patient’s upper teeth and jaw in place while the lower jaw shifts forward.

Jaw Surgery (Orthognathic Surgery)

Jaw surgery for an overbite is the most expensive treatment option (up to $40,000). Adults who have severe overbites and fully developed jaws typically require surgery. Overbite surgery consists of an exam, X-rays, and general anesthesia administration. Then the jawbone is cut, reshaped, and repositioned by an oral surgeon. This type of jaw surgery, called orthognathic surgery, requires orthodontic treatment and coordination between the orthodontist and oral surgeon.

Overbite FAQs

How do you know if you have an overbite?

Look in the mirror while you're biting down. If the majority of your lower teeth (3.5 mm or more) are hidden by your top teeth, you may have an overbite. Your dentist will be able to provide the most accurate diagnosis.

Is it bad to have an overbite?

Untreated overbites can lead to severe jaw pain, TMJ, tooth decay, and gum disease. Children who do not have their overbite corrected are more likely to need jaw surgery as adults

What causes an overbite?

The most common cause of an overbite is genetics. A person’s mouth can be too large or too small to fit teeth properly. Childhood habits including long-term pacifier and bottle use, finger sucking, and thumb sucking push the tongue against the back of the teeth and can also cause an overbite.

How do you correct an overbite?

Tooth extractions, braces, clear aligners, orthodontic headgear, and jaw surgery are all treatment options for overbites. Your doctor or orthodontist will be able to recommend the best treatment option for you or your child.

How long does it take to correct an overbite?

It depends on the severity of the overbite and the treatment method. Braces can take 1-2 years. Clear aligners can fix a mild to moderate overbite in 9 months to 1 year. Surgery can correct an overbite quickly, and it usually takes 6 to 8 weeks to heal and recover fully.

Can you correct an overbite without braces?

Yes, usually. For children, often tooth extractions can help correct an overbite. In addition, clear aligners are a popular alternative to braces. Cervical pull headgear and jaw surgery can also correct overbites.

Do overbites get worse with age?

It depends on the type of malocclusion, all patients are different. But yes, overbites usually get worse with age.

Can a mouthguard fix an overbite?

A mouthguard cannot fix an overbite, but it may help alleviate some symptoms such as jaw pain and headaches

Invisible dental teeth brackets tooth aligners on blue background, plastic braces dentistry retainers to straighten teeth. Orthodontic temporary removable straighteners in dentist office dental

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Resources

Cobourne, Martyn T., and Andrew T. DiBiase. Handbook of Orthodontics. Elsevier, 2016.

“Orthodontic Treatment Options.” American Association of Orthodontists, www.aaoinfo.org/orthodontic-treatment-options/.

Proffit, William R., et al. Contemporary Orthodontics. Elsevier/Mosby, 2019.

Recognizing and Correcting Developing Malocclusions: a Problem-Oriented Approaches to Orthodontics. Wiley, 2015.

Sterling, Evelina Weidman. Your Childs Teeth: a Complete Guide for Parents. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.

Updated on: September 11, 2020
Author
Alyssa Hill
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Medically Reviewed: October 30, 2019
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Lara Coseo
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