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Dental Profession

What is an overbite and how is it corrected?

By Wilkinson Orthodontics, Queensland Australia

As every dentist will tell you, thumb sucking can cause dental problems, especially when adult teeth grow in.

Developing an overbite is one of the risks associated with prolonged or vigorous thumb sucking.  But what is an overbite and what problems does it create?

We’ve all had an entire lifetime to become accustomed to the way our teeth feel every single day. But you may have wondered if your teeth are actually fitting together properly? Should your top teeth overlap your bottom teeth? Or have you just become accustomed to the feeling of an incorrect or overbite?

Should top teeth sit in front of bottom teeth?

The short answer is yes. Your top teeth should sit in front of your bottom teeth.  This allows the top molars to join together correctly with your bottom molars, and enables your teeth to cut through your food when you chew it.  But how much of an overlap should there be?


Retrognathism (also known as Class II Malocclusion) is more commonly referred to an overbite. An overbite is when the upper jaw and teeth noticeably overlap the bottom jaw and teeth.

Specifically, an overlap of between 1 and 2 millimetres is considered to be ideal, which means anything from a 3 millimetre overlap and beyond would be considered to be some form of an overbite.

How many people have an overbite?

It is estimated that around 70% of the population has some degree of an overbite.  This could range from a very minor overbite through to a severe overbite.

What causes an overbite or overjet?

Overbite or overjet can be caused by extensive thumb sucking during childhood.  As a result of prolonged or vigorous thumb sucking teeth can be pushed forward.  The good news about thumb sucking is that this habit can be curbed in children when caught early, best solution is before the adult teeth emerge. There are many solutions to curbing thumb sucking by using a thumb sucking guard. We recommend Thumbsie® to assist your child in curbing thumb sucking. Alternative an orthodontic thumb crib can also assist.

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Another cause can be come from prolonged bottle feeding that can push the jaw and teeth further out of line.

Some people are genetically predisposition to have a bite problem, this can be due to hereditary factors or gene blending. Where you cannot take preventative measures to decrease chances of overbite to occur.

Overbite vs Overjet

An Overbite is frequently confused with a similar condition called an Overjet.

An overbite refers to the position of the top teeth being too far in front of the bottom teeth, whereas an overjet is considered when the teeth sit with an outward angle which in turn causes the tip of the top teeth to sit further in front of the bottom teeth.

They are often confused because they can present a similar visual appearance, and its also possible for a patient to have both and overbite and an overjet simultaneously.

What is the impact of an overbite?

The implications of an overbite are more than just cosmetic.  Beyond potential self-esteem issues, people who have an overbite can also experience a range of other health issues such as:

Jaw pain

When teeth are sitting in the wrong position, this will typically have a corresponding impact on the position of the jaw.   This in turn can cause pain and discomfort because the jaw is being forced to move in a way that it is not designed for.

Oral health problems

When teeth sit in an incorrect position they have the potential to strike each other in ways which can damage the teeth and gums.  This can impact the tooth enamel and damage gum tissue which can all ultimately lead to pain and tooth loss.

Speech problems

The position of our teeth plays a critical role in our ability to speak.  This is why people who have severe overbites can often experience some kind of a speech impediment at the same time.

Sleep apnoea

The position of the teeth and jaw are all factors when we sleep, particularly if you like to sleep on your back.  People who have an overbite are often more prone to experiencing sleeping issues such as sleep apnoea, which in turn makes it difficult for them to get regular, high quality sleep.

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How is an overbite corrected?

Now that we understand that an overbite has the potential to be a serious issue, how do we fix it?

In most cases an overbite is simple to correct using orthodontic treatment, and it’s possible to correct it using regular braces, Incognito braces, and even Invisalign aligners so there are plenty of treatment options to consider.

If an overbite is especially severe the orthodontist may identify that the cause is actually skeletal in nature.  This means that it is caused by the position of the jaw itself, rather than the position of the teeth within the jaw.  These cases are less common but when they do occur the treatment can require jaw surgery to correct the position of the lower jaw itself.

Either way it’s best not to attempt to self-diagnose your issue. Your orthodontist will make an assessment of the best way to proceed with your treatment to get the best results, and will present the options for you to consider.

About the author

Wilkinson Orthodontics, Queensland Australia

At Wilkinson Orthodontics we take pride in every created smile with a personalised approach with the aim of leaving each patient feeling they have been listened to and looked after.

Our vision is to treat each patient like a member of the Wilkinson Orthodontic family. Our goal is to look after the needs and expectations of the individual to establish trust and confidence in their orthodontic treatment.


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