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Have you ever wondered, “What’s the difference between an overbite and an underbite?” As an expert orthodontist, Shine Orthodontics’ Dr. Scheer knows all about underbites and overbites and how to treat them. If you’re concerned you might have an underbite jaw or overbite teeth, it makes sense to know about them, too. That’s why in this post, we’ll talk cover:

  • What is an overbite?
  • What is an underbite?
  • What Causes an Overbite vs. an Underbite?
  • Complications If Left Untreated
  • How to Correct an Overbite or Underbite

What is An Overbite?

First, we should mention that it’s common for your top dental arch to overlap your lower dental arch a bit. So a bit of overbite is considered normal? To a degree, yes — and necessary: if the upper front teeth didn’t slightly overlap the bottom teeth, they would hit each other whenever you bit down, leading to premature wear of the enamel.

However, what does a problematic overbite look like? Dental professionals consider an overlap of more than three millimeters an overbite; an excessive overlap is called a “deep bite.” How does an overbite happen? An excessive overbite can happen because of the position of your teeth or because of the shape or size of your jaw. In severe cases of overbite, the bottom teeth are so far behind the upper teeth that they can bite into the roof of the mouth.

What is an Underbite?

Simply put, an underbite is when the lower jaw is more forward than your upper jaw, resulting in your lower teeth extending past your upper teeth. Not as common as overbites, underbites happen to about 5-10% of people, which includes both mild underbites all the way to serious underbites that would benefit from treatment.

What Causes an Overbite vs. an Underbite?

So, why do some people end up with these bite issues? For starters, genetics. If your parents had overbites or underbites, you might have inherited this malocclusion from them.

But there are other causes as well. An overbite can develop when normal infant habits like thumb-sucking, tongue, or bottle and pacifier use continue into the toddler or elementary school years. These habits can push the upper teeth and jaw forward or change the shape of the palate. Apart from baby habits, you can also develop an overbite from chronic teeth grinding or clenching (also called bruxism) or if you have missing lower back teeth that can cause your bite to collapse and make your lower jaw smaller.

As for underbites, they, too, can happen from prolonged infant habits. They may also result from a mismatch in jaw size — a too-large lower jaw, a too-small upper one, or both. How your adult teeth grow in can also contribute to an underbite. Other causes? Jaw or facial trauma or birth defects like a cleft lip or palate.

Complications If Left Untreated

Left untreated, overbite and underbite malocclusions can negatively affect your oral and overall health. They can lead to worn-down teeth, tooth decay and gum disease, jaw pain or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), headaches, or troubles with speaking, eating, or breathing

How to Correct an Overbite or Underbite

So how do we fix these bite issues? Teeth are one-of-a-kind to each person, just like fingerprints so the solution isn’t a one-size-fits-all. That’s why at Shine Orthodontics, we approach every patient’s smile with a personalized approach that fits their unique facial features. Every patient’s treatment is customized, resulting in a healthy bite, brilliant smile, and contributes to better overall health.

How to correct an overbite or underbite also depends on the severity and complexity of your case. An accomplished orthodontist like Dr. Scheer turns to modern braces and clear aligners like Invisalign to fix an overbite or underbite. Sometimes (though only rarely), braces or Invisalign are accompanied by orthognathic surgery with an oral surgeon.

Tackling Overbites

From the mildest case to the most severe, Shine Orthodontics patients can choose from a variety of proven, effective treatments for an overbite. As a board-certified orthodontist, Dr. Scheer offers an expert, high-tech experience with traditional metal braces, clear braces, or InBrace lingual braces. Or if clear aligners appeal to you, we also provide Invisalign and Invisalign Teen.

Whether with braces or Invisalign, straightening overbite teeth might need the assistance of orthodontic rubber bands to help pull the top dental arch back and the bottom dental arch forward, gradually aligning the overbite. With braces, these rubber bands attach to tiny hooks on your brackets, providing a connective force between your upper and lower arches. With Invisalign, rubber bands grab onto special Invisalign tabs designed right into your clear aligners.

Sometimes, treatment for correcting an overbite might include removing a tooth to make room for alignment. Or for more severe cases, orthognathic surgery is paired with orthodontics to reposition the jaw.

Underbite Correction

Underbite correction can also happen with braces or Invisalign. Just like fixing overbite teeth, rubber bands help bring jaws into alignment. With Invisalign for an underbite, you might also need tooth-colored buttons bonded directly onto your teeth to help the aligners move teeth with more leverage.

Some severe cases will get the best results with the help of orthognathic surgery. Though we can address more cases than ever before without jaw surgery, there are times when it’s needed. If this is you, you’ll start with braces or Invisalign to start shifting teeth, then undergo orthognathic surgery to realign the jaw. After a healing period, you’ll continue with the last half of your orthodontic treatment for final tooth movements and a healthy bite.

Overbite and Underbite Treatment with Your Modern Thornton Orthodontist

With an uncompromising eye for aesthetics and the goal of a functional, strong bite, Dr. Scheer is all about designing confident, healthy smiles.

Set up your initial, no-pressure consultation to find out how Invisalign or braces can correct your underbite or overbite. Our friendly, expert team is ready to welcome you to our modern Thornton, CO, orthodontic office.