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

Even though the terms overjet and overbite are used interchangeably, they are both different. Here, our Parksville dentists share the differences between these two conditions and how your dentist might be able to correct them with clear aligners.

What are overbites and overjets?

Overjets and overbites are among the most common orthodontic conditions, and even if the terms are frequently used interchangeably, there are specific differences between them.

Overbite

An overbite can also be known as a deep bite and it develops when one-third of the lower incisors are covered by the upper front teeth when your jaw is closed. The vertical characteristic of this orthodontic problem differentiates it from an overjet, which is horizontal.

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 millimeters will cause issues.

Overbites are vertical, while overjets are horizontal and cause the upper teeth to protrude past the bottom teeth at an angle. But with an overbite, the teeth remain downward or straight (not on an angle).

How are overbite and overjet caused?

The most common cause for overbite is when the lower jaw is slightly smaller than the upper jaw, making the lower teeth rest behind the upper teeth and moving downwards as wear on your teeth occurs.

Typically, more gum will 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 happen if a patient had a tongue-thrusting habit or was allowed to suck on an item - generally a thumb or pacifier - for too long as a child. Nail-biting and chewing on items such as pencils or erasers could also lead to this condition. 

Like overbites, childhood habits like finger or thumb sucking can cause overjet if they continue when adult teeth start to erupt. Another common cause is when the lower jawbone (mandible) doesn't keep up with the development of the forward growth of the upper jawbone (maxillary). This disparity in growth makes the bottom jawbone (and consequently the teeth), end up situated behind where they should be for a preferable smile.

Genetic factors can also contribute to an overbite or overjet.

What dental problems can overbite and overjet create?

In serious overbite situations, the lower teeth can touch the gum tissue behind the upper front teeth, causing wear on the teeth and gum tissue.

With an overjet, your risk of damaging your teeth or fracturing them increases. Some overjets are barely noticeable as they are moderate, while others are more severe and can make it difficult to close your lips completely due to the poor alignment of teeth. You may also notice challenges with 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 issues listed above, we may be able to treat the problem with clear aligners. The aligners will apply gradual pressure to your teeth to move them into corrected positions as prescribed by your dentist in a custom treatment plan. This will leave you with a straighter, more symmetrical 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 an image of what your smile could look like at the end of your treatment. Schedule a consultation with your dentist today to find out if you are a candidate for clear aligners.

To learn if clear aligners can help your overbite or overjet contact our dentists at Wembley Dental Clinic in Parksville today to schedule your consultation.

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