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Overbite vs. Underbite: What's the Difference?

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Overbites and underbites are two types of misaligned bites. Learn more about the difference between the two and why you might want to address them.

An overbite is when your upper teeth overlap the bottom teeth, while an underbite is when the lower teeth rest in front of the top teeth. Many seek treatment for these conditions due to oral health complications and difficulty speaking. The specifics of your case will determine your best treatment options.  

What Is An Overbite?

An overbite, also called a deep bite or closed bite, is when the upper front teeth overlap the bottom front teeth too much when the back teeth are closed, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. An overbite commonly occurs when you have a small lower jaw, or the lower jaw is shorter than the upper jaw. 

Reasons to correct an overbite, as explained by the American Association of Orthodontists, include:

  • Your lower front teeth will continue to grow up towards the top ones and may become crowded and cause alignment issues.
  • The lower front teeth that grow too high may wear down more quickly and lose tooth structure.
  • In extreme cases, the lower front teeth may grow until they hit the top of the mouth and can cause painful sores.
  • Eating can be uncomfortable and speaking clearly can be a challenge.

Consulting with your dentist or orthodontist about your bite alignment issues is the best way to get a clear understanding of your bite problems and treatment options.

What Is An Underbite?

An underbite is when the lower jaw rests in front of the upper jaw when the back teeth are closed, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. If an underbite goes uncorrected, you expose the risk of wearing your teeth down which can put stress on the joints in your jaw.

Additional problems caused by misaligned bites include:

  • Trouble chewing
  • Difficulty cleaning teeth properly
  • Increased risk of tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease
  • Strain on the teeth, jaws, and muscles

In addition to the above issues, misaligned bites can also impact your self-esteem since a protruding jaw may cause people to feel self-conscious about their appearance.

Can Invisible Aligners Help?

Invisible aligners are a treatment option for people with minor spacing issues or mild-to-moderately crowded teeth. People with severe crowding or alignment issues, such as severe overbite, underbite, or even crossbite, likely need more complex treatment than clear aligners can offer.

Whichever treatment approach is most appropriate for you, dental experts warn that treatment should only be done under the supervision of a qualified professional and never attempted on your own at home. 

“Aligning jaws, straightening teeth, and correcting bites should begin with a comprehensive examination by a clinician,” Craig Feldman, DMD and Director of Orthodontics at The Smilist Dental, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Throughout orthodontic treatment, and through regularly scheduled appointments, clinicians can assess the movement of teeth, bone, and soft tissue, making the necessary adjustments to advance the process,” Feldman says. 

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