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Overbite vs. Overjet: Understanding the Difference

By Dr. Dan Whiting on September 11, 2018

Up close photo of woman’s beautiful smileAny bite abnormality, or malocclusion issue, can affect the appearance and overall health of your smile. Two common forms of malocclusion are overbite and overjet. Both of these conditions can have a negative impact on your smile and the health of your teeth and gums.

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but there are notable differences. Here, our team at Smiles for Life in Harrisonburg, VA explores overbite vs. overjet, describes the characteristics of these two conditions, and discusses cosmetic dentistry treatment options to address them.

What Is an Overjet?

An overjet describes a condition in which the upper front teeth protrude outward. Sometimes called buck teeth, this refers to the horizontal relationship of the upper and lower incisors.

In a typical smile, the upper teeth extend over the lower teeth by about one to three millimeters. If the teeth protrude more than four millimeters, it is considered an overjet. In certain cases, the overjet can be so severe that the upper teeth extend past the lower lip.

While an overjet can certainly be genetic in nature, it is caused by early childhood habits in most cases. Behaviors such as thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting can cause the upper front teeth to splay out over time. This condition may also be the result of prolonged pacifier use.

Treatment for Overjet

In most instances, overjet can be corrected successfully with orthodontic treatment. We offer Invisalign® and Six Month Smiles® at our practice.

Invisalign can address many forms of malocclusion, including overjet. This system straightens the teeth with a series of clear, removable plastic trays. Therefore, patients can achieve their goal without the need for metal braces.

Six Month Smiles uses the same method as traditional braces. However, this system focuses primarily on the “social six” - that is, the teeth that are visible when you smile. A patient with an overjet may be a good candidate for this treatment option.

What Is an Overbite?

An overbite refers to the vertical relationship between the upper and lower incisors. In other words, it calculates the depth of the bite.

A normal overbite measures approximately one to three millimeters; the upper front teeth cover about one-third of the lower front teeth. If the upper incisors cover more than this, then an overbite is present. In certain instances, the bite may be so deep that the lower teeth touch the palate.

In contrast to overjet, almost all cases of overbite are hereditary. This condition is skeletal in nature and is usually the result of an overdeveloped maxilla or an underdeveloped mandible.

Treatment for Overbite

If an overbite is diagnosed in childhood, early orthodontic treatment can help address the issue. This can be effective because the jawbones are still growing and forming.

However, if an overbite is not treated until adulthood, then corrective jaw surgery may be necessary. In some cases, traditional orthodontics may effectively address the condition.

Contact Smiles for Life Dental Care

Do you have protruding front teeth? Does your bite feel off? If so, malocclusion may be affecting the health of your teeth and gums. If you suspect that you or a family member has an overjet or overbite, schedule a visit at Smiles for Life today. We can assess your oral health and design a plan to meet your needs. Call our office at (540) 828-2312 or contact us online anytime.

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