An overbite (the severe form of which is called a deep bite) is one of the most common types of bite problems that orthodontists treat. If you know or suspect that your child has this condition, here’s some basic information about overbites to help you understand it, as well as your options for correcting it.
What Is an Overbite?
An overbite is what is known as a malocclusion, or a misalignment of the teeth when the jaws are closed. With this particular condition, the front top teeth overlap the bottom front teeth when the jaws are closed. While most people have this to a very small degree, the upper teeth ideally don’t overlap the lower ones by more than about 1 or 2 millimeters.
Is an Overbite Concerning?
A normal overbite of up to a few millimeters doesn’t generally present concerns. However, a more pronounced overbite is often considered an aesthetic concern, and may affect a person’s confidence. Beyond that, there are potential complications for dental and other areas of health; the risks are greater the more pronounced the overbite. Overbites can make it hard to properly brush the teeth (which in turn can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems) or chew food, and even cause lisps or other speech impediments. Those with an overbite may clench their jaws or grind their teeth, which can trigger headaches and temporomandibular joint pain, and erode enamel and cause wear to the teeth over time. It’s also not unusual for overbites to become more pronounced as a person ages.
What Causes an Overbite?
Overbites are typically caused by genetics. However, they can also be caused or exacerbated by certain behaviors, particularly when children are very young. For example, excessive or long-lasting thumb sucking can contribute to this condition, as can prolonged bottle feeding, tongue thrusting, and nail chewing.
How Is an Overbite Treated?
Early intervention is important to prevent the overbite from deepening and possible complications. Traditional braces, lingual braces, and clear aligners can all be used to correct an overbite. Each of these tools has its pros and cons, so you’ll need to discuss which would be best for your child’s condition and your personal preferences.
Treatments are available for symptoms related to an overbite, too. For example, significant temporomandibular joint pain can be alleviated with splint therapy that repositions the lower jaw to relieve pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the area.