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Overbite vs Overjet: Understanding Key Differences

June 14, 2018 — by John Meola
Tags: Cosmetic Dentistry

Portrait of smiling brunette woman outdoorsThe term malocclusion is used to describe any number of conditions in which the teeth do not fit together properly. Two common kinds of malocclusion include overbites and overjets.

These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably; however, there are marked differences between the two. Today, our doctors at Dental Associates of New England in Boston, MA discuss overbite vs overjet and explain how cosmetic dentistry treatments can improve the appearance of the smile.

What Is an Overbite?

The term overbite is often misused to describe teeth that protrude out. However, an overbite focuses on the vertical aspect of occlusion, not the horizontal. Therefore, when assessing an overbite, your doctor is looking at the relationship between the upper front teeth and the lower front teeth.

In a typical bite, the upper front teeth should overlap the lower front teeth slightly. In fact, normal overlap usually covers about one-third of the lower incisors when closed down. An overbite is characterized by a “deep bite” - when the upper incisors cover more than one-third of the lower teeth.

What Causes Overbites?

An overbite may be caused by an overdeveloped upper jaw or an underdeveloped lower jaw. Because this condition is skeletal in nature, it is usually associated with genetics and family history. If you have an immediate family member with an overbite, you are more likely to have one as well.  

Common Treatments for Overbites

Due to the skeletal nature of an overbite, the most predictable treatment option is usually oral surgery. Although treatment will vary based on the individual needs of the patient, most individuals undergo corrective jaw surgery followed by orthodontic braces.

If the overbite is minor or diagnosed at a young age, orthodontic treatment may address the problem without the need for surgery.

What Is an Overjet?

While an overbite deals with the vertical relationship between the teeth, an overjet focuses on the horizontal aspect. When people refer to “buck teeth”, they are usually referring to an overjet, which is characterized by protruding front teeth.

This protuberant horizontal overlap can cause the teeth to be more vulnerable to damage and breakage.  

What Causes Overjet?

Many cases of overjet are due to specific habits. For example, childhood behaviors such as tongue-thrusting, thumb-sucking, or prolonged pacifier use can cause the teeth to splay outward gradually over time. There are instances, however, when an overjet is the result of genetics.

Common Treatments for Overbites

The treatment for overbite will depend on the severity of malocclusion.

For example, mild to moderate cases can usually be corrected with Invisalign®. This alternative to metal braces is a popular option among our teen and adult patients, as it straightens the teeth discreetly without the need for metal components. On average, Invisalign treatment can be completed in about 18 to 24 months.

Severe cases of overbite may require traditional orthodontic treatment using metal braces. This tried-and-true option uses stainless steel brackets, bands, and wires to gradually move the teeth into more appropriate, functional positions.

Contact Us for More Information

During a consultation at our practice, our doctors can perform a full assessment of your oral health and develop a personalized treatment plan to meet your needs. If you have an overbite, overjet, or any other form of malocclusion, we can help you achieve straighter, more beautiful teeth. Contact us or call us at (857) 350-3400 for more information.