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overjet vs overbite

Overjet vs Overbite: Causes & Treatments

Reviewed by Dr. Izbel Aksit.

Growing up, many people find that their teeth are not growing the way they’d want. They essentially don’t seem “normal,” just like everyone else’s. Unfortunately, this may prevent people from achieving a beautiful smile and result in social isolation. The problem may lie with the alignment of their teeth, the way they sit over each other. This is known as occlusion. And malocclusion is when the teeth in the upper and lower jaw do not align well. It may result in two different dental conditions: overjet vs. overbite. Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they’re different.

Not only do these cause aesthetic concerns, but also the person can experience functional impediments like difficulty talking, eating, and breathing. Moreover, it can cause pain, gum disease, and tooth decay/loss. It’s best to get early intervention. Since the jawbones of younger children are still developing and more pliable, treatment is quicker and easier. However, adults can also get treatment for an overbite and/or overjet. To understand the difference between the two, you need to know what these malocclusions actually are.

What Is An Overbite?

According to the US National Library of Health, there are three classes of malocclusion:

Class 1: The front teeth only slightly extend over the bottom teeth.

Class 2: The front teeth excessively overlap the bottom teeth (an overbite).

Class 3: The bottom teeth are in front of the bottom teeth and cover the front teeth (an underbite).

An overbite is characterized by the excessive vertical overlap of the front teeth over the bottom teeth. Excessive is the operative term here; many people have some degree of an “overbite.” It helps them in tearing and cutting their food. Ideally, a person’s front teeth should overlap by around 10-20% (3-4mm) over their bottom teeth. If on closing the mouth, the upper and lower teeth lie directly on top of each other, the overbite is 0mm.

However, the measure of a “bad overbite” depends on the size and shape of the patient’s teeth; if a person has large teeth, they will take more space. In some cases, the teeth are so far down that the lower teeth can touch the gums at the top. Constant rubbing of teeth can result in mouth sores and discomfort when eating food.

Causes of An Overbite

According to the US National Library of Medicine, malocclusion tends to run in families. You may end up having an overbite if you have a relative whose upper teeth overlap their lower teeth excessively. That’s because it may have to do with the shape of your jawbone. Overdevelopment of the upper jaw and underdevelopment of the lower jaw can result in this condition. Or it may be the result of over eruption of front teeth.

There are other causes of overbite. In one study published in The Angle Orthodontist, a patient had an overbite, which was primarily the result of a thumb-sucking habit. However, it was exacerbated because of a genetic component. Thumb-sucking can also result in an open bite (complete lack of overlap between lower and upper teeth) if the habit persists past the age of 5-6.

An overbite can also result from a tongue-thrusting habit when the child is swallowing food or talking. In the same vein, long-term use of a pacifier can result in this condition. Other than that, bruxism, a teeth-grinding disorder, is a very common cause of an overbite. And lastly, a habit of biting nails, chewing pens/pencils weakens the root of the teeth, which can result in the forward, vertical jutting of front teeth.

What’s An Overjet?

Another condition that results in misaligned teeth is known as overjet. In this, there’s an excessive horizontal distance between the lower bottom and upper front teeth. It can be so much so that the person is unable to completely close their mouth. The upper teeth may even extend beyond the lower lip, which can make a person feel self-conscious about their appearance. These are also known as buck teeth.

Ideally, the distance between the upper and bottom incisors should be 2-3mm. Many people have some degree of an overjet. However, in some cases, it can be quite severe, where the horizontal distance of the upper teeth from lower teeth may be around 10mm. The forward protrusion of the teeth increases the risk of traumatic dental injury. Moreover, it can also cause difficulties in talking, drinking, and eating.

Causes of An Overjet

This malocclusion may also be the result of your genetics; it may be due to the overdevelopment of the upper jaw or underdevelopment of the lower jaw. Other causes include:

  • Thumb-sucking
  • Prolonged bottle-feeding
  • Prolonged use of pacifiers
  • Tongue-thrusting

What’s the Main Difference Between Overjet vs. Overbite?

When debating overjet vs. overbite, you have to keep the one main difference in mind: overbite is a vertical measure of how far down the front teeth extend over the bottom teeth (more than 1/3rd), while overjet teeth are the horizontal extension of front teeth beyond bottom teeth. It is also true that an overbite is more common than an overjet. Remember, a person can have both an overbite and an overjet at the same time.

What Are The Symptoms Of An Overjet & Overbite?

Mainly, you’ll know about overjet vs. overbite through the appearance of the teeth. However, other signs and symptoms of these malocclusions include:

  • Difficulty eating
  • Jaw pain, which can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD).
  • Crooked teeth
  • Speech problems (may may “th” or “sh” sounds)
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Unable to completely close or open your mouth

How To Treat Overjet & Overbite?

First, the dentist will perform a physical exam where s/he will ask you to close your mouth to see how your teeth align against each other. This will help them in determining whether you have overjet vs overbite or both. For more precise measurements, you may need to get an X-ray. This will help the dentist find out more about the severity of the problem and recommend a treatment plan that’ll best suit you. There are a few treatment options to correct an overjet and overbite. These are as follows:

Dental Braces

Dental braces can fix both overbite and overjet. To change the alignment and position of the teeth, the surgeon might extract the premolars. This creates space for the teeth when they’ll drift backwards (vertically or horizontally).

It can take anywhere between a few months to 2 years for the treatment of these malocclusions with dental braces. It varies depending on how severe your condition is. Instead of getting traditional metal braces, it is also possible for you to get treated through Invisalign. However, this only works in mild to moderate cases. The end result, in any case, should be aligned, straight teeth.

Jaw Surgery

If the reason why your teeth stick out is an underdeveloped lower jaw or an overdeveloped upper jaw, you may need oral surgery to fix the problem. The surgeon may reshape and reposition the upper and/or lower jaw for this purpose.

Dental Veneers

Dental veneers can also work for these conditions if they’re not that severe. These porcelain laminates cover the front surface of the teeth to give someone a more even and straight smile. If you have crooked, misaligned teeth, you may consider getting these.

Dental Crowns

If your teeth protrude quite a lot or are misaligned, one idea may be to get dental crowns. The dental professional may shave the tooth to change its shape before putting the crown cap on top.

Cosmetic Bonding

If the case is pretty mild, a dental bonding session might do the trick. This composite resin is moulded over the crooked, misaligned and protruding teeth so that they look more even. Choosing the right colour will help it look like your natural teeth.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Since a lot of these dental problems can arise as a result of childhood habits like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, prolonged use of pacifiers and feeding bottles, it’s best to make sure that your child lets go of these habits before their permanent teeth come out. It is always a good idea to have your child get regular dental checkups from an early age. This will ensure early intervention in case there’s a potential for a malocclusion.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Treatment for Malocclusions?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the following problems may arise from an overbite and overjet:

  • Periodontal (gum) diseases
  • Tooth cavities/tooth decay
  • Jaw problems (leading to the above problems)
  • Speech problems

Summing Up

Now that you know what an overjet vs. overbite is, you may have an idea of the kind of dental treatment that’ll best suit you. If the condition is severe, it’s best to get treatment as soon as possible as it can cause other oral health problems. Make sure to get an accurate diagnosis from an oral surgeon.

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