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).
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:
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.
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:
An underbite is the opposite of an overbite and occurs when the lower jaw is pushed forward, rather than backward.
However, underbites develop due to similar factors, such as genetics.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Untreated overbites can lead to severe jaw pain, TMJ, tooth decay, and gum disease. Children who do not have their overbites corrected are more likely to need jaw surgery as adults.
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. These habits can lead to 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.
It depends on the severity of the overbite and the treatment method. Braces can take 1 to 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.
Yes, usually. For children, tooth extractions often help correct an overbite. Clear aligners are a popular alternative to braces. Cervical pull headgear and jaw surgery can also correct overbites.
It depends on the type of malocclusion; all patients are different. But yes, overbites usually get worse with age.
A mouthguard cannot fix an overbite, but it may help alleviate some symptoms, including jaw pain and headaches.
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/.