Overbite

Overbite refers to a vertical misalignment of your teeth. It happens when your upper teeth overlap your lower teeth more than they should. Left untreated, overbite can cause oral health issues like jaw pain, tooth erosion and gum disease. Treatment options include orthodontics and oral surgery.

Overview

What is an overbite?

An overbite is a type of malocclusion (“bad bite”). It occurs when your upper teeth overlap your lower teeth more than they should.

A small overbite is normal. In fact, it’s necessary for proper health and function. But if your upper teeth overlap your lower teeth more than 2 to 4 millimeters, it’s an overbite — and it could cause jaw pain, tooth erosion and other oral health conditions.

Overjet vs. overbite

Like overbite, overjet is a type of malocclusion. These terms sound similar but mean something different:

  • Overjet refers to horizontal misalignment. The upper teeth protrude (stick out) diagonally beyond the lower front teeth. Some people call this “buck teeth.”
  • Overbite refers to vertical misalignment. The upper teeth overlap the lower teeth more than what’s typical. Some people call this a “deep bite.”
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Symptoms and Causes

Symptoms of overbite

The main symptom of an overbite is that your upper front teeth overlap your lower front teeth more than they should. A severe overbite is more noticeable than a minor overbite. But this type of malocclusion can affect more than just your appearance.

Overbites can also result in:

Overbite causes

In some cases, malocclusion is genetic (runs in families). Genetic traits, like your jaw shape, can affect the alignment of your teeth.

Other overbite causes include:

  • Excessive nail biting.
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism).
  • Tongue-thrusting (when your tongue presses too far forward).
  • Thumb-sucking or pacifier use that occurs past the age of 3.
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Overbite complications

Left untreated, an overbite can lead to health complications like:

  • Jaw pain and stiffness.
  • Headaches.
  • Earaches.
  • Difficulty chewing.
  • Tooth decay.
  • Gum disease.
  • Neck pain.

Diagnosis and Tests

How doctors diagnose overbite

Typically, your dentist is the healthcare provider who first notices an overbite during a physical exam. They might take dental X-rays to further examine how your teeth align.

The dentist may refer you to an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in tooth and jaw alignment.

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Management and Treatment

How is overbite treated?

Anyone with an overbite can receive treatment. But the type of treatment you need depends on several factors, including the severity of overbite and your age. Overbite treatment varies for children and adults.

How to fix overbite in children

Because children are still growing, their bones are softer and their teeth move more easily. As a result, dentists can often fix overbite in kids with orthodontics alone.

Overbite treatment for children may involve:

  • Palate expanders (used during growth spurts) to widen the roof of their mouth.
  • Headgear to correct jaw position.
  • Braces to move all teeth into proper alignment.
  • Removal of primary (baby) teeth to make room for adult teeth.
  • Retainers to keep teeth in alignment after braces.

How to fix overbite in adults

Adults still benefit from orthodontic treatment — and in some instances, orthodontic treatment might be all you need. But some severe cases require corrective jaw surgery in addition to braces.

Overbite treatment for adults may involve:

  • Traditional or clear braces to move teeth into their correct positions.
  • Tooth extractions to give the remaining teeth more room.
  • Corrective jaw surgery (orthognathic surgery) to improve alignment.
  • Retainers to prevent tooth movement after treatment.

Prevention

Can overbite be prevented?

Some people are born with an overbite. You can’t prevent that. But there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood that your child will develop an overbite during the early stages of life:

  • Avoid traditional sippy cups. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), sippy cups with spill-proof valves can cause dental development issues. Traditional sippy cups require sucking, and some children habitually suck on the spout for long periods of time, leading to malocclusion. Instead, consider a 360-degree sippy cup, which prevents spills and allows your child to sip from the side just like a traditional adult cup.
  • Keep an eye on thumb-sucking and pacifier use. It’s natural for children to self-soothe in these ways. But as they grow older, these habits can have a negative impact on oral development. Discourage thumb-sucking and pacifier use by age 3. Your child’s dentist or pediatrician can give you recommendations to help with this.
  • Take your child to the dentist regularly. Your child should have their first dental visit by age 1 or when their first tooth comes in. This allows their dentist to spot any potential oral health issues early on.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have an overbite?

That depends on your overall goals. If you’ve been living with an overbite and you’re ready to correct it, schedule an appointment with a dentist or orthodontist. They can tell you how severe your overbite is and whether you need treatment.

If you have an overbite but you’re not ready for treatment, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of complications in the meantime:

  • Practice good oral hygiene.
  • Use a night guard if you thrust your tongue or grind your teeth while you sleep.
  • Visit your dentist regularly.
  • Wear a mouth guard when playing contact sports.

Living With

When should I see my dentist about an overbite?

You should see your dentist every six months or at a frequency they recommend. During these visits, they can keep an eye on your oral health. If your overbite interferes with the health or function of your teeth, they’ll recommend treatment.

If you notice any new symptoms between visits, it’s important to let your dentist know. This includes pain, infection or tooth mobility. These things can’t wait until your next routine cleaning.

What questions should I ask my dentist?

If you have an overbite, here are some questions you might want to ask your dentist:

  • Is my overbite mild or severe?
  • Do I need treatment to correct my overbite?
  • If so, how long will treatment take?
  • What precautions should I take so my overbite doesn’t come back?
  • How can I keep my overbite from causing other oral health issues?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Unless it’s severe, you might not even know you have an overbite — when your upper teeth overlap your lower teeth more than they should. And not everyone with an overbite needs treatment. But if your dentist uses this term, ask how it affects your oral health. Treating it sooner rather than later can reduce your risk of further issues.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/09/2024.

Learn more about our editorial process.

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