An overbite is the overlap or gap between the top and bottom front teeth. It’s fairly common for the upper teeth to sit too far over or in front of the lower teeth, causing overbite teeth problems. Fortunately, dentists have spent generations learning how to fix this, and now overbite correction is the second most common reason people choose to get braces.
Here, we’ll answer questions such as:
- What is an overbite?
- What’s the difference between a normal, deep and severe overbite?
- Why should you fix this problem?
- What does treatment involve?
Keep reading to learn more about this common dental malocclusion issue and what to do if you’re worried about it.
Table of contents
- 1 What is an overbite?
- 2 Is an overbite bad?
- 3 How to fix an overbite
- 4 Summary: Before and after treatment
- 5 FAQs
What is an overbite?
The definition of an overbite is the vertical overlap or horizontal gap between your top and bottom front teeth.
A horizontal overbite, also called an ‘overjet’, causes the upper teeth to protrude at the front of the mouth. When very pronounced, you might hear this called ‘buck teeth’, but we will refrain from using that term here. An overjet may occur along with an open bite, meaning there is a vertical gap between the upper and lower teeth.
When the vertical overlap is 2-4mm, or around 30% of the lower teeth is covered, this is considered normal. A deep overbite, also known as a deep bite, occurs when the overlap is 4-6mm or more. In the case of a very severe overbite, the upper teeth may completely cover the lower teeth and even dig into the lower gum.
An overbite can be both horizontal and vertical, meaning the upper teeth protrude at the front and hang too far down over the lower teeth.
The video below gives a brief visual explanation of these different dental problems:
Causes of an overbite
There are a few different things that might cause this dental problem. Some of the common reasons include:
- A jaw that doesn’t form properly as a foetus
- Thumb sucking as a child
- Overusing a bottle or dummy as a baby
- Tongue thrusting
- Nail biting
- Excessive chewing on things like pencils and pens
Different types of overbite
There are two types of overbite: skeletal and dental. The skeletal kind is caused by irregularities in jawbone development. A dental overbite occurs when there are problems with baby or adult teeth coming through, like overcrowding, or when teeth are put under pressure, for example from thumb sucking.
Overbite vs underbite
An overbite occurs when your upper jaw sits over your lower teeth, whereas an underbite occurs when your lower teeth sit in front of your upper teeth. Underbite is also known as prognathism, and has different issues and treatments associated with it. You can read more about underbite here.
Is an overbite bad?
Once you know what an overbite is, the next step is to discover whether you need treatment. The British Orthodontic Society has system for grading orthodontic problems in children called the IOTN. The information in the table below will help you identify whether the condition is severe or normal, and what treatment – if any – might be needed.
There are a range of reasons why it’s a good idea to fix an overbite. Untreated, overbite problems can include:
- Poor dental hygiene
- Teeth wearing down quickly
- Facial pain
- Speech problems
- Poor face structure
Perhaps you are considering the options for getting rid of an overbite in your child, and are wondering whether it’s worth putting them through the treatment. Bear in mind in most cases, the younger the correction takes place, the better. It can be harder to treat an overbite in adults because the jawbone and tooth roots are more firmly developed.
The process of getting braces, surgery, and then long-term retainers for an overbite might be a bit scary but the benefits of fixing misaligned teeth will outweigh the short-term discomfort during treatment.
How to fix an overbite
When you first learn that you have an overjet or deep bite, of course it is concerning and you’ll want to know how to correct it. The first thing to understand is that a normal overbite is around 2-4mm, so you don’t always have to worry about your upper teeth overhanging slightly.
There are different ways your dentist might suggest correcting your bite. It will depend on how severe the problem is, and what has caused it. Trust that your dentist or specialist knows the best solution, but if you are concerned or worried about the advice you get you can always seek a second opinion.
Most overbite correction in the UK is done using braces. Treatment with braces is effective and, when followed up with a retainer, the results should be lifelong. This treatment can take between one and two years; sometimes more.
If getting private orthodontic treatment, you may have the option of clear braces, which are less noticeable than traditional metal ones.
Before getting braces for an overbite, ask your dentist or orthodontist to show you pictures of overbites before and after braces. Knowing what a difference this treatment can make to your smile may help motivate you through the short-term discomfort!
Invisalign for overbite
Clear aligner braces like Invisalign are a really effective form of overbite correction for mild and moderate cases. Although almost invisible, these removable braces apply pressure to move teeth to a much better position, transforming a deep overbite to a normal one. Patients usually switch to a new set of aligners every two weeks.
With brands like Invisalign, overbite correction may be quicker than with regular metal braces, but the main advantage of this style is that they are almost unnoticeable. Although aligner braces are not available on the NHS, many parents are happy to pay the extra for their children to avoid ‘metal mouth’ taunts at school. Brands like Invisalign are also popular with adults who want to maintain a more professional appearance or have the flexibility to remove their braces.
If you want to find out whether you or your child are a suitable candidate for overbite correction with invisible braces, you can get an answer in two minutes with our free tool below. Just enter a few details to check your eligibility for this treatment.
Discover more about Invisalign and other invisible braces in our full guide.
An overbite jaw caused by skeletal issues usually requires jaw surgery, also called orthognathic surgery. When the lower jaw, or mandible, has not developed properly, surgery can help improve the shape. You can expect your facial appearance to change slightly as a result of the surgery.
In the UK, overbite surgery on the NHS is free of charge for children, where deemed medically necessary. Adults with a severely misaligned bite may be eligible for NHS treatment prices.
Overbite treatment with surgery normally involves one or more of the following:
- Removing of some teeth
- Repositioning the jaw
- Inserting screws
- Adding plates around the jaw
All of the work to fix an overbite in the jaw is done inside the mouth, so it won’t leave any visible scars. Patients will probably have to stay in hospital overnight after overbite surgery, and stay off work or school for 2-4 weeks. Additional orthodontic work usually takes place before and after the surgery to guide the alignment of the teeth.
Retainer for overbite treatment
In some cases it’s possible to fix an overbite problem with a removable retainer. This works in a similar way to braces, slowly moving the teeth into the correct alignment. Your dentist will advise you on whether this is a suitable treatment in your case.
If you get orthodontic treatment for an overbite, it will be necessary to wear a retainer to stop your teeth slipping back into their old position. You can read more about wearing a retainer after braces here.
Summary: Before and after treatment
Before you fix your overbite teeth, you may be very conscious about how you look; especially if you have a severe overbite. You may also experience facial pain and headaches as a result of a deep overbite pushing back your lower jaw and putting pressure on your nerves and blood supply. You might wear your teeth down quicker because there is more strain on them.
Once you have achieved a normal overbite following correction, you might notice a change in your face shape because your lower jaw is further forward. This won’t be extreme; you might need to look at your overbite before and after pictures to see the difference! Any pain you may have felt should hopefully go away after your overbite braces or surgery.
How can you get rid of an overbite?
Overbite correction is generally pretty straightforward. Dentists and orthodontists know how to correct an overbite after years of experience with this treatment in dentistry. You can:
- Get overbite braces
- Have jaw surgery
- Use a retainer
Does Invisalign fix deep bites and overjets?
The easy answer is yes! Overbite teeth can be fixed with removable aligner braces like Invisalign in most moderate cases. The price for Invisalign overbite correction is a little higher than metal braces, but treatment may be quicker and is a lot less obvious to other people.
To check your eligibility for treatment with invisible braces, take our free test here.
Can you fix an overbite naturally?
Unfortunately, you cannot fix this problem naturally; you’ll need overbite surgery or braces. It is possible to prevent some overbite cases, such as those caused by thumb sucking, pencil chewing, or overuse of dummies in babies. But, if you have a severe overbite and want to know how to fix it, you will need to consult a dentist.
Can I get overbite correction in the UK on the NHS?
Children under 18 may be eligible to have overbite teeth fixed on the NHS with braces or surgery. As with any other treatment, approval will depend on the severity of the condition. This will need to be assessed by an NHS dentist.
Adults are only likely to get braces or overbite surgery on the NHS if they have a severe overbite which causes problems with everyday things like eating and speaking. A dentist will need to assess the degree of your overbite jaw before deciding if you’re eligible for NHS treatment rates.
What is a normal overbite?
It’s considered normal when the upper front teeth sit around 2-4mm in front of or overhanging the lower teeth. Research suggests that the average overbite teeth have is 2.9mm, and around 8% of children have a deep or severe overbite of more than 6mm. In the UK, correction treatment is normally recommended in cases of more than 4mm.
Johnson Elite Orthodontics: Orthodontic Statistics: Did You Know …? Consulted 16th May 2019.
NHS: How much will I pay for NHS dental treatment? Consulted 16th May 2019.
NCBI: Prevalence and distribution of selected occlusal characteristics in the US population, 1988-1991. Consulted 16th May 2019.
British Orthodontic Society: What Is The IOTN? Consulted 16th May 2019.