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How to Tell If You Have An Overbite

By Jacqueline Hensler
An untreated overbite can lead to health complications such as tooth decay and speech problems. Here’s how to tell if you have an overbite.

An overbite is when your upper teeth overlap your bottom teeth when you close your mouth. With an overbite, your upper teeth will partially or fully cover your bottom teeth, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. There is a simple way to tell if you have an overbite. 

What Does An Overbite Look Like?

You can look at your teeth in the mirror at home to see if you have an overbite. You can also ask your dentist. 

“True overbites can be seen by biting down and seeing how much your lower front teeth are covered by your upper ones,” Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling, DMD, PC, tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

An overbite is sometimes confused with an overjet—more commonly known as buck teeth—which happens when your front teeth protrude horizontally, according to the American Assocation of Orthodontists. You may notice an overjet more easily in photos when smiling naturally. 

“Many patients mistake an overjet with an overbite and don’t truly notice their real overbite because they don’t usually take photos while biting down or when their teeth are touching,” Fulop-Goodling says. 

When you have an overbite, your top teeth overlap the bottom teeth by more than 3 millimeters, according to the American Board of Orthodontics. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, some common causes of overbites include: 

  • Genetic bone issues
  • Pushing your tongue too far forward 
  • Habitual nail biting
  • Thumb-sucking or using pacifiers beyond age 3

Dentists recommend correcting an overbite, which can range from mild to severe. If you have an extreme overbite, your bottom teeth may even touch and irritate the palate (i.e., roof) of your mouth. 

“Allowing an overbite to go untreated may lead to various issues, such as difficulty chewing and speaking,” Fulop-Goodling says. 

According to the American Dental Association, untreated overbites can also lead to:  

  • Cavities 
  • Gum disease 
  • Loss of teeth 
  • Altered speech 
  • Jaw problems

Overbite correction depends on the severity of the condition as well as patient specifics. But many overbites can be treated with invisible aligners. These devices help “align the teeth into position and correct the overbite throughout treatment,” Fulop-Goodling says.

“This treatment involves wearing custom-made, clear aligners that gradually move teeth into place,” Fulop-Goodling adds. Many prefer the convenience and unobtrusive appearance of aligners. 

Other treatment options for overbites include braces, jaw surgery and tooth extraction. Speak to your dentist or orthodontist to find the right option for you. 

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