Overjet vs. Overbite: What's the Difference?

Laughing teen with braces beside friend

"Buck teeth" is an impolite way to refer to protruding front teeth, but did you know this catchall phrase can actually refer to two different dental conditions? Overbite and overjet are two types of dental misalignment of the front teeth. For both conditions, orthodontic treatment can bring the teeth into a healthy alignment.

Overjet vs. Overbite

New South Wales Government defines the term overjet as a horizontal misalignment between the upper and lower front teeth. When the alignment between these teeth is normal, the upper front teeth sit roughly 2 millimeters in front of the lower teeth. Overjet describes a condition where the horizontal separation is greater than 2 millimeters.

An overbite refers to a vertical misalignment between the upper and lower front teeth. Normally, the upper front teeth vertically cover about 25 percent of the lower front teeth. Any further overlap is considered an overbite, which can also be called a deep overbite or deepbite.

A review of studies in the Dental Press Journal of Orthodontics revealed the prevalence of overjet and overbite in the global population. Approximately 20 percent of individuals studied — which included children and adults in the U.S., the U.K., India, China and several countries in Africa and Europe — exhibited an overjet, and approximately 22 percent had an overbite.

Treatment Options

The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) explains that protruding teeth have a greater risk of being broken or chipped. Additionally, an overbite might cause problems with pronouncing sounds made with the tongue tip, as well as "s" and "sh" sounds, according to New South Wales Government. This is why it's important to treat these types of misalignment, especially if they're interfering with the normal functioning of the teeth.

Fixing overjet and overbite involves moving the teeth into a healthy alignment, often through the use of orthodontic devices, surgery or a combination of both. While the methods and appliances used to correct both issues are similar, your team of dental professionals will tailor your treatment plan to your needs.

  • Functional Appliances

    The British Orthodontic Society (BOS) notes that functional appliances are often used to correct problems where the top teeth bite over the bottom teeth. These appliances work to move the jaw into a better position that aligns the teeth. A patient might use functional appliances before or simultaneously with braces. There are many different types of functional appliances, both fixed and removable, and your orthodontist will design a shape that fits your mouth and corrects your specific alignment issue. A study in The Journal of Indian Orthodontic Society found that wearing fixed functional appliances for seven months (with continued treatment after the appliances are removed) can correct overjet and overbite and improve the patient's profile.
  • Braces

    Once the jaw is positioned properly, an orthodontist may choose to place braces to correct the bite, explains the Mayo Clinic. Braces are typically very effective in straightening the smile and realigning the teeth. A patient may wear braces for up to three years, after which their orthodontist will often give them a retainer to maintain the new position of the teeth. Patients who are sensitive about their appearance while wearing regular metal braces might opt for tooth-colored ceramic braces.
  • Jaw Surgery

    The Mayo Clinic also mentions jaw surgery as a treatment option for facial asymmetry, including overbite. Together, your orthodontist and your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will devise a treatment plan based on X-rays and models of your teeth. Typically, the treatment plan involves wearing braces for 12 to 18 months before the surgery. The surgery will be performed under general anesthesia and shouldn't result in any scarring. It's common for the patient to spend two to four days in hospital, and they are usually fully healed after 12 weeks, at which point braces may be placed again to perfect the teeth alignment.

When to Correct Overjet vs. Overbite

If you're uncomfortable about the alignment of your front teeth or think your child may have an overjet or overbite, schedule a visit with an orthodontist, who can make the correct diagnosis of the dental condition. The BOS notes that functional appliances may work best if placed during the adolescent years, between ages 10 and 14, while jaw surgery will typically be performed on older teens whose jaws have stopped growing. Adults may also be treated for overjet and overbite, though they may need to undergo a longer process.

Once treatment is complete, you'll be able to enjoy a straighter smile. Correctly aligned teeth can improve the overall health of your mouth and your confidence in your smile!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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  • Swish with water before brushing – instruct your child to rinse with water after eating. This will loosen food that may be caught in the braces, then brush thoroughly.
  • Floss once a day – each night help your child floss. Flossing helps loosen food debris and plaque at and under the gum line that would otherwise harden into tartar. It can also help reach the nooks and crannies in the teeth that might be difficult to reach with a toothbrush.
  • Use a fluoride rinse – after brushing and before bed have your child rinse with fluoride rinse to help keep teeth strong and healthy
  • Dental visits every six months – take your child to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning every six months. The dentist can point out areas that need more attention, and help make sure you're keeping your child’s teeth healthy and clean.