Getting Over Your Overbite
An overbite is a type of malocclusion, or bad bite, characterized by excessive protrusion of the upper jaw. In layman's terms, it's where the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth beyond what's normal. An overbite is the most common type of malocclusion -- in fact, approximately 70 percent of children develop a teeth overbite to some extent, according to eBody.com. While most overbites are noticeable, some may be so slight that only a dentist can tell if you have one. But whether your overbite is minimal or severe, every overbite should be checked out by a dental professional to determine whether treatment is needed.
Why are overbites such a problem? Well, for one thing, protruding teeth can affect the structure of your face, causing those who have them to become self-conscious of their appearance and possibly suffer from low self-esteem. But an overbite is more than just an aesthetic problem. A teeth overbite can lead to other complications, including:
- Problems with chewing/eating
- Speech impediments, including a lisp
- Strained jaw and muscles, which can cause jaw pain and increase the risk of breaking a tooth
- Worn tooth enamel, which increases the chance of developing cavities and gum disease
- Damage to the soft tissues from the bottom teeth resting against the roof of the mouth
- Increased risk of front tooth damage from trauma due to their position in the mouth
Types of Overbites
There are two types of overbites: vertical and horizontal. A vertical overbite is where the top teeth significantly overlap the bottom teeth. A horizontal overbite, or overjet, is classified by the top teeth protruding beyond the bottom teeth. Overbites may be dental or skeletal in nature: a dental, or teeth overbite, means the teeth are causing the problem, while in a skeletal overbite, the jaw is the source of the protrusion. While overbites are often diagnosed as either vertical or horizontal, it is possible for one patient to have aspects of both types of overbites.
What Causes an Overbite?
Overbites are often hereditary, but they may also result from a malformed jaw. During development, the jaws may grow unevenly, resulting in an upper jaw that is too large or lower jaw that is too small. Sometimes severe childhood oral habits can cause an overbite. Prolonged thumb-sucking or pacifier or bottle use can cause an overbite in children, as can tongue thrusting, a habit in which the child pushes his tongue against the back of his teeth when swallowing. Chronic bad habits such as nail-biting or chewing on pencils can also result in a teeth overbite.
Orthodontics is the most common treatment for overbites. Overbites that are more severe may require tooth extractions to allow teeth to move more freely, and overbites that are skeletal in nature may require surgery to reposition the jaw. An overbite can be treated at any age, but overbites are considered easier to treat in children as their jaws are still developing.
Prior to teeth overbite treatment, your dentist or orthodontist will make a treatment plan. Impressions and X-rays may be taken to help determine the relationship between the jaw and skull. The orthodontic treatment itself may be performed in several stages: First, dental braces will be used to straighten teeth (most overbites are also complicated by other orthodontic problems). Once your teeth are aligned, the top teeth may be moved back or the bottom teeth forward to correct the overbite. Rubber bands, coils, springs or headgear are often combined with braces to pull teeth back into place. Typical dental treatment with braces lasts about two years but can be longer or shorter depending on the severity of the case.
In some cases, early intervention can prevent the need for lengthy orthodontic treatment. Children may be treated with a functional appliance to help steer their developing jaws in the right direction. A functional appliance positions the lower jaw forward, encouraging it to grow in that direction until the jaw has settled into the correct position. Braces are often still used to complete treatment, but a functional appliance may be able to lessen their treatment time or prevent the need for extractions.
All children should see an orthodontist by the age of 7 to determine whether orthodontic treatment may be needed. While early treatment is recommended, it's never too late to correct your overbite and improve your quality of life.
If you suffer from a teeth overbite or any other bite problem, a visit with a dentist is in order. For a great overbite dentist near you, call us at 1-866-970-0441.