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Overbite vs. Overjet: How Can You Tell the Difference - and Can Clear Aligners Help?

Did you know that the terms overbite and overjet are frequently used interchangeably, but they are distinct? Our Sault Ste. Marie dentists explain the distinction and how clear aligners may be used to correct either issue.

What are overbites and overjets?

Overbites and overjets are two of the most common orthodontic issues. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these two conditions.

Overbite

An overbite, also known as a deep bite, occurs when one-third of the lower incisors are covered by the upper front teeth while your jaw is closed. The vertical nature of this problem distinguishes it from a horizontal overjet.

Overjet

Commonly called “buck teeth” an overjet is when the upper front teeth protrude over the bottom teeth, creating a significant horizontal overlap.

While it’s normal for upper front teeth to rest slightly in front of your lower teeth when closing your mouth, any space of more than 2 millimetres will cause issues.

Overbites are vertical, whereas overjets are horizontal and cause the upper teeth to protrude at an angle past the bottom teeth. An overbite, on the other hand, causes the teeth to remain downward or straight (not on an angle).

How are overbite and overjet caused?

The most common cause of overbite is that the lower jaw is somewhat smaller than the upper jaw, resulting in the lower teeth resting behind the upper teeth and moving downwards as wear on your teeth takes place.

More gum will tend to show on your upper teeth, and your upper front teeth sit slightly lower than the teeth beside them (upper side teeth, or canines).

Overbites can occur if a patient had a tongue thrusting habit or was permitted to suck on an object - usually a pacifier or thumb - for too long as a child. Biting the nails or chewing on objects such as erasers or pens can also cause this issue.

Childhood habits such as finger or thumb sucking, like overbites, can cause overjet if they continue when adult teeth begin to emerge. Another common cause is that the lower jawbone (mandible) fails to keep up with the development of the upper jawbone's forward growth (maxillary). Because of this growing disparity, the bottom jawbone (and thus the teeth) end up being positioned behind where they should be for an ideal smile.

Genetic factors can also cause overbite or overjet.

What dental problems can overbite and overjet create?

In extreme cases of overbite, the lower teeth may touch the gum tissue behind the upper front teeth, creating wear on the teeth and gum tissue.

With an overjet, your chances of damaging or breaking your teeth increase. Some moderate overjets are barely noticeable, whereas others are more severe and can make it difficult to close your lips completely due to poor tooth alignment. You may also experience difficulty chewing or biting.

Can an overbite or overjet be treated with clear aligners?

If the overbite or overjet is skeletal in nature, we would not recommend clear aligners and instead suggest speaking to your dentist to explore other options, such as surgery.

However, if the overjet or overbite is caused by one of the above-mentioned issues, we may be able to treat it with clear aligners. The aligners will gradually push your teeth into the correct positions prescribed by your dentist in a custom treatment plan. This will result in a more symmetrical, straighter smile.

The clear aligners also move your gum at the same time, keeping proportions in check. You will need to wear your clear aligners for about 22 hours each day, removing them to brush, floss, eat and drink.

Your teeth will progressively shift with the aligners, and you’ll switch to a new set approximately every two weeks. Your custom treatment plan could involve wearing as many as 26 trays, which equates to one tray every two weeks for 12 months.

Before you start your treatment, your dentist will be able to show you a preview of how your new smile will look by the end of your treatment. Take the first step to schedule a consultation with your dentist to learn if you are a candidate for clear aligners.

Would you like to find out whether clear aligners would help fix your overbite or overjet? Contact our Sault Ste. Marie dentists to book a consultation today.

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