Overbite

Overview

What is an overbite?

An overbite, also called buck teeth, is a misalignment of the teeth. It occurs when your upper front teeth protrude (stick out) beyond your lower front teeth.

Overbite is a type of malocclusion. This term describes any misaligned or crooked teeth.

How does an overbite affect the body?

A minor overbite may not cause any noticeable health issues. However, an uncorrected overbite may lead to:

Symptoms and Causes

What causes an overbite?

In some cases, an overbite is hereditary (runs in the family). Genetic traits, such as your jaw shape, can affect the alignment of your teeth.

Other causes include:

  • Excessive nail biting.
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism).
  • Thumb-sucking, or nonnutritive sucking behavior (NNSB), that occurs past the age of 3.
  • Tongue-thrusting, when the tongue presses too far forward into the mouth.
  • Using a pacifier, especially past the age of 3.

What are the symptoms of an overbite?

The primary symptom of an overbite is related to your appearance — your top front teeth overlap past your bottom front teeth. Overbites can also cause:

  • Difficulty fully opening or closing the mouth.
  • Discomfort while eating.
  • Jaw pain.
  • Speech challenges.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is an overbite diagnosed?

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

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

Management and Treatment

What are treatments for overbite correction?

Overbite correction is different for children and adults. If an overbite is caught during childhood, treatment may involve:

  • Growth modification devices, or palate expanders, used during growth spurts to re-position the jaw.
  • Braces to slowly move all the teeth into correct alignment.
  • Removal of baby teeth or permanent teeth to make room for adult teeth.
  • Retainers to keep the teeth in alignment after braces.

In adults, treatment may involve:

  • Braces to move only the teeth affected by the overbite.
  • Surgery to correct jaw alignment.
  • Teeth removal to allow the remaining teeth more room.

Prevention

How can I prevent overbite?

Sometimes overbites occur due to uncontrollable factors, like genetics.

In children, you can help prevent overbites by:

  • Avoiding sippy cups with spill-proof valves.
  • Discouraging thumb-sucking past infancy.
  • Limiting pacifier use starting around age 3.
  • Scheduling a dental visit by age 1.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the outlook for people with an overbite?

If you have an overbite, you can keep your teeth and mouth healthy by:

  • Practicing excellent oral hygiene.
  • Using a night guard if you tend to tongue thrust or grind your teeth while you sleep.
  • Visiting the dentist every six months.
  • Wearing a mouthguard during contact sports.

Living With

What else should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What overbite risk factors do I need to be aware of?
  • How long will treatment for my overbite take?
  • What precautions should I take so that my overbite does not return?
  • How can I keep my overbite from causing other health problems?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

An overbite is top front teeth that protrude beyond your bottom front teeth. In severe cases, an overbite can lead to health problems like jaw pain, gum disease or tooth decay. In children, a dentist or orthodontist can treat an overbite with braces or other corrective devices. Adults who have overbites may need jaw surgery to correct the misalignment. If you have an overbite, you can keep your mouth healthy by practicing excellent oral hygiene and scheduling regular checkups with your dentist.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/01/2021.

References

  • American Association of Orthodontists. Accessed 3/1/2021.Can Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking Affect My Child’s Teeth? (https://www.aaoinfo.org/blog/can-pacifiers-and-thumb-sucking-affect-my-childs-teeth/)
  • American Dental Association. Accessed 3/1/2021.Braces. (https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/braces)
  • Journal of the American Dental Association. Accessed 3/1/2021.Establishing the association between nonnutritive sucking behavior and malocclusions. (https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(16%2930669-9/abstract)

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