Overbite vs Underbite: What Are They and How to Fix Them

Overlooked and underemphasized.

That’s how people often regard bite problems such as overbites and underbites. And it’s unfortunate that most only go to a dentist to straighten crooked teeth or take care of a painful cavity. They don’t realize that having proper alignment between the upper and lower jaws is a crucial part of oral health.

Not paying heed to misalignment problems can lead to more significant challenges. For example, it’s possible to develop breathing issues, pain during chewing, and tooth decay if you leave them unaddressed.

You might be wondering about the differences between overbite vs underbite. What are the characteristics of these conditions, and how are they treated? Let’s explore the answers to these questions in this article.

Overbite vs Underbite: What Are the Differences?

Both overbite and underbite are types of malocclusion. A malocclusion occurs whenever the upper and lower rows of teeth don’t line up with each other. Having a malocclusion means you have a “poor bite.”

In a normal bite, the upper teeth should sit slightly forward over the lower teeth. Also, the molars should align with their upper or lower counterparts.

What’s an Overbite?

As mentioned, the upper teeth should extend somewhat over the lower teeth to have a normal bite. When this overlap is excessive (about 4 to 10 millimeters), that’s when you have an overbite.

Overbites are mainly hereditary, but some can develop from bad habits. For example, thumb-sucking can lead to an overbite in children. Having spaced-out teeth or overcrowded teeth can also become an adult overbite eventually.

What’s an Underbite?

An underbite, on the other hand, is when the bottom teeth overlap the upper teeth. People with an underbite seem to have a protruding chin and a bulldog-like appearance.

As with overbites, underbites can develop due to similar circumstances. These include genetics, thumb-sucking, and pacifier use in children above three years of age.

How to Treat an Overbite

Can braces fix an overbite? The answer is yes! The most common way to treat an overbite is with braces.

However, it may be the case that trying to fix an overbite with braces alone isn’t enough. Often, an orthodontist will use dental braces along with other treatment modalities. Examples include tooth extraction, rubber bands, and sometimes jaw surgery.

Today, orthodontists are also finding success in treating overbites with Invisalign.

Another treatment option for children and adolescents is palate expansion. A device is temporarily placed in the mouth to widen the palate. As the child grows, the expander will slowly open up the jaw to correct the overbite.

How to Treat an Underbite

An orthodontist can fix mild cases of underbites with braces or aligners. But in more severe cases, the dentist may recommend surgery.

Surgery for underbites involves reshaping to either lengthen the upper jaw or to shorten the lower jaw. Early surgery may be helpful for children with a severe underbite caused by a birth defect such as a cleft lip.

Another treatment option for children and teens is wearing a chin cap. It’s worn while sleeping to limit the growth of the lower jaw.

Consult an Orthodontist for Bite Problems

Whether you have an overbite vs underbite, the best course of action is to see your orthodontist. Don’t suffer from the symptoms brought about by these conditions. And, just as important, do what you can to protect your precious smile!

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