Overbite: Information You Should Know

Overbite is a common orthodontic condition experienced by millions of people around the world. In cases of excessive overbite, the mandibular (or bottom) teeth are partially or completely overlapped by the maxillary (top) teeth.

While the majority of individuals possess a minor overbite to some degree, excessive overbite can lead to a variety of problems, including difficulty eating or speaking properly. Normal overbite, which is measured at approximately three to five millimeters, does not impair an individual’s ability to function in any way. When problems with the development of speech are noted, however, a consultation with a licensed oral and maxillofacial surgeon is highly recommended. As with other types of malocclusion, early diagnosis is key to successful correction.

There are two major types of overbite. Vertical overbite refers to a condition in which the patient’s upper teeth noticeably cover those of the bottom jaw. Horizontal overbite occurs when the patient’s teeth would otherwise fit properly together were it not for the fact that the upper teeth jut forward significantly. Though most overbite patients suffer from only one of these conditions, it is possible for both of them to be present simultaneously.

Causes and Complications of Excessive Overbite

There are a variety of observed causes of excessive overbite. One or a combination of the following may cause the condition:

  • Malformation of the jaw during fetal development
  • Hereditary factors
  • Persistent chewing of the nails or other objects
  • Extended use of pacifiers or bottles during young childhood
  • Tongue thrusting
  • Sucking of the thumb, which puts pressure on the roof of the mouth for extended periods of time during growth

The majority of symptoms associated with excessive overbite are noticeable in early childhood, even before permanent teeth erupt.

The complications of major overbite vary from case to case and depend on the severity of the condition and the age at which treatment is sought. The most commonly cited complications include the following:

  • Difficulty in chewing food
  • The development of a lisp or similar speech impediment due to the position of the teeth
  • Severe wearing down of tooth enamel
  • Soreness and general discomfort of the jaw and gums
  • Injury to the roof of the mouth behind upper teeth due to constant resting over bottom teeth
  • Unpleasant altering of the face’s appearance
  • Increased risk of gum disease and tooth loss

Treatment and Correction

After a thorough exam, comprehensive evaluation and x-rays have been performed, the dentist issues a diagnosis. If the overbite is relatively minor, the maxillofacial surgeon may refer the patient to an orthodontic specialist for assessment, as braces are sometimes used to correct certain overbites. If, however, the problem lies in the patient’s jaws themselves, orthodontic braces will do little to help align the teeth. In these cases, orthognathic surgery is required to correct the condition.

If a patient suffering from overbite and its related complications has lived with the condition for many years, the damage caused over the course of a lifetime must be addressed as well. After recovery from surgery, the patient attends follow-up visits with his or her oral surgeon in order to correct any remaining issues that affect the teeth, gums and palate.

Face and Jaw Surgery Center serves all of North Dakota and North West Minnesota including Moorhead, MN and East Grand Forks, MN

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