Overjet vs. Overbite: What's the Difference?

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Table of Contents

  1. Key Facts
  2. Overjet vs. Overbite
  3. Overjet & Overbite Causes
  4. Overjet & Overbite Symptoms
  5. Overjet & Overbite Correction
  6. Treatment Options

Overjet and overbite are two forms of malocclusion, or teeth misalignment. While overjet is often confused with overbite, they are actually two different conditions.

Overbite is a common misalignment problem. With an overbite, the upper front teeth overlap the upper bottom teeth too much. 

Overjet occurs when the front upper teeth jut out in front of the bottom teeth and are angled outward. 

Genetics are a leading cause of all malocclusions. Other factors may include childhood oral habits, missing teeth, and injury to the mouth or jaw.

Overbite and overjet can result in oral health problems if left untreated, including decay, gum disease, and jaw disorders.

The main treatment options for overbite and overjet are braces and clear aligners. If crowding is serious enough to prevent the teeth from shifting into correct positions with treatment, tooth removal may be needed. Severe cases of overjet or overbite may also require jaw surgery in addition to braces or aligners.

Key Facts about Overjet vs. Overbite

  • Both overjet and overbite are conditions of malocclusion, or teeth misalignment. They are both classified as Class 2 malocclusion. 

  • Overbite is a vertical teeth misalignment in which the upper front teeth sit too far in front of the lower front teeth.

  • Overjet (sometimes called buck teeth) is a horizontal misalignment in which the upper front teeth protrude outward in front of the lower front teeth. 

  • If left untreated, overbite and overjet can result in tooth decay, gum problems, weakened tooth enamel, problems eating and speaking, and jaw pain and dysfunction.

  • Treatment for overjet and overbite include braces and clear aligners. In cases involving crowding, tooth extraction may be necessary. Severe overjet or overbite may require jaw surgery.

Overjet vs. Overbite: What are They?

Overjet and malocclusion are conditions of teeth misalignment. This means that when you close your mouth, your upper and lower teeth don’t line up correctly.

There are generally three classes of malocclusion. Both overjet and overbite are considered Class 2 malocclusions.

An overbite is present when the upper front teeth come too far in front of the lower teeth when the mouth is closed.

It’s important to note that just because your upper front teeth sit in front of your lower teeth, this does not mean you have an overbite. When a bite is in correct alignment, the upper teeth do overlap the lower teeth slightly. Very minor overbites are also common, and not all require treatment. 

Overbites require treatment when the upper front teeth sit too far in front of the lower teeth. Any space larger than 2 mm may be considered an excessive overbite.

An overbite may be considered a vertical teeth misalignment. An excessive overbite may be called a deep bite or closed bite.

With an overjet, the upper front teeth jut out forward ahead of the lower front teeth.

Some specialists refer to this as a horizontal teeth misalignment or a horizontal malocclusionOverjet may also be called buck teeth.

What Causes Overjet & Overbite?

Most cases of overjet and overbite are caused by genetics, including hereditary jaw problems. 

Other causes include the following:

  • Thumb sucking

  • Childhood pacifier use, especially after the loss of baby teeth

  • Prolonged bottle or sippy cup use

  • Jaw or mouth injury

  • Tooth loss

  • Dental appliances or applications that weren’t fitted properly, such as fillings, crowns, or retainers

  • Tumors

What are the Symptoms of Overjet & Overbite?

Often, overbite or overjet can be seen when a person is smiling. The upper front teeth may appear to sit too far in front of the lower front teeth. Overjet may be more noticeable than overbite. Often, people can spot the appearance of buck teeth. 

Other symptoms of overjet and overbite may include the following:

  • Jaw pain or soreness

  • Cavities or gum irritation despite practicing good oral hygiene

  • Headaches

  • Speech and chewing problems

  • Feeling like teeth are “grinding” against each other

  • Teeth cutting into the gums or inner cheek

When Should you Correct Overjet & Overbite?

With malocclusion, the earlier you can correct the problem, the better.

Treating the problem as a child or adolescent has advantages. The mouth and jaw may be still developing, and they are then easier to influence with orthodontic appliances.

However, it’s never too late to fix an overbite or overjet. Correcting the issue can boost your confidence, and it will also improve your oral health (and thus, your overall health). 

The crowding and/or gaps that malocclusion creates can make it hard to clean in between teeth. Crowding makes the space between teeth too narrow to get to with a toothbrush or floss. Gaps create open spaces in the gums that are vulnerable to bacteria. These issues increase the risk of tooth decay and gum problems. 

Problematic bites can also cause friction and abrasion between different teeth and between gums and teeth. This increases the risk of damaged tooth enamel and gum disease. Problems with eating and speech can also occur.

Bad bites can also put strain on the jaw muscles and cause headaches, soreness, and jaw disorders like TMJ.

Treatment Options for Overjet & Overbite

The treatment options needed to correct overbite and overjet will depend on the severity of the problem and, in some cases, what’s caused it.

Regardless of how severe your overbite or overjet is, tooth removal may be needed if there’s crowding. To correct your bite, teeth will need to be moved into new positions, which means they need space to do so. If crowding won’t allow for tooth movement, a tooth (or multiple teeth) may need to be removed.

Orthodontic devices are sometimes used to treat overbite or overjet, often along with other orthodontic treatments like braces or aligners. Devices may include a palatal expander (which is applied to the roof of the mouth and then expanded to widen the jaw) or headgear (a device that applies pressure with wires and/or bands on the inside and outside of the mouth).

If you have a missing tooth, the tooth must be replaced before your overjet or overbite can be addressed. Otherwise, the space created by the missing tooth may allow the teeth to shift after correction. Tooth replacement options include a bridge or dental implants.

For extreme cases of malocclusion or in cases that are caused by a skeletal issue, jaw surgery may be needed. This may involve a reshaping of the jaw and the use of wires, plates, or screws. Treatment will also require braces or aligners to straighten teeth.

Braces use a bracket-and-wire system to apply pressure to the teeth in order to move them. Small brackets are applied to the teeth. These are usually small square brackets that are cemented on. Bands or elastics are then usually placed over the teeth.

Archwires extend over the top and bottom teeth, connecting them. The wires are tightened during regular adjustment visits to the orthodontist. The tightening ensures there’s enough pressure to force movement.

Braces have long been the most well-known treatment for malocclusion. For some severe cases of overjet and overbite, traditional metal braces may be required.

Aligners are clear, custom-made trays that fit over the teeth. While they’re usually worn for over 20 hours per day during treatment, they are removable and taken off for eating and daily dental hygiene. These factors make them a much more convenient option for many who are looking to treat a mild to moderate case of overjet or overbite.

The aligner process begins with an impression or tooth scan to get an image of your current bite. A treatment plan is then developed to move teeth into their optimal positions, and a series of aligner trays is created.

While aligners feel and look like your actual bite and slip on easily, each tray is designed with subtle changes to apply gentle pressure to move teeth. You’ll wear each tray for a week or two before moving on to the next. Each tray gradually moves the teeth into place, and after your last tray, your bite is aligned.

Some aligners are provided in offices by an orthodontist or dentist. The treatment process for these is more traditional, with regular in-office visits.

Mail-order aligners offer a more convenient aligner treatment option. Some top aligner providers, like Byte, offer a completely remote doctor-supervised treatment, beginning with an at-home impression kit to determine if you’re a candidate for aligner treatment. Byte will refund you the cost of this impression kit if aligners can’t correct your smile.

Overjet vs. Overbite Frequently Asked Questions

No. Overjet and overbite are both forms of malocclusion, or teeth misalignment. But while an overbite is just a condition in which the front teeth sit too far in front of the lower teeth, an overjet describes a condition in which the front teeth are protruding outward in front of the lower teeth.

An overjet malocclusion is sometimes called buck teeth. The front teeth jut forward and out in front of the lower teeth.

An overbite is a more common form of malocclusion, in which the front teeth sit too far in front of the lower teeth but do not jut outward or at an angle.

An overjet might be considered a horizontal misalignment. The upper teeth angle outward, and the space caused by the malocclusion may be measured from how far out the teeth protrude.

An overbite may be considered a vertical misalignment. The upper teeth sit too far in front of the lower teeth. The space caused by the malocclusion is measured by how far the front teeth sit in front of the lower teeth.

Everyone’s smile is beautifully unique, and there’s no reason to be ashamed of your smile, even if you have orthodontic issues like overjet. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to correct it.

Fixing an overjet can help you to feel more confident in your smile and appearance. It can also greatly improve your oral health and the outlook for your oral health in the future.

Malocclusion issues like overjet can make it harder to clean your teeth, so correcting them can help to prevent problems like decay, bad breath, and gum disease. Overjet can also cause jaw problems, pain, and issues with eating and speech.

While fixing your overjet may result in a more attractive smile, it’s really just one of many benefits.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.