Overbite, a dental condition that many people experience, can often be underestimated due to its commonality. However, if it remains untreated, it can lead to various oral health complications and even affect one’s self-esteem. This detailed guide aims to help you understand what an overbite is, its causes, potential issues, and the available options for managing and treating it.
What is an Overbite?
An overbite, sometimes referred to as “buck teeth,” is a dental condition characterised by the upper front teeth overlapping the lower front teeth excessively. While a slight overbite is common and typically doesn’t require treatment, a severe overbite can pose significant oral health problems.
Many people might not realise they have an overbite because a small degree of overlap is normal. It becomes problematic when the overlap is excessive, causing potential discomfort or leading to other oral health issues.
Causes of Overbite
The primary cause of overbite is genetic, meaning it is a condition inherited from parents. Genetics determine the size of your jaw and how your teeth come in, which can lead to an overbite if the upper jaw is larger than the lower jaw or the teeth are too large for the jaw.
However, certain childhood habits can also contribute to the development of this condition. Habits such as thumb sucking, prolonged use of a pacifier or bottle, and tongue thrusting can cause the teeth to become misaligned, leading to an overbite. Early intervention can help manage these habits and prevent the progression of an overbite.
Types of Overbite
Understanding the types of overbite can be crucial in determining the right course of treatment. An overbite isn’t just a singular condition – it can manifest differently depending on several factors. Here, we’ll explore the two primary types of overbite: dental and skeletal.
A dental overbite, as the name suggests, is an overbite that’s caused by issues with the teeth themselves. This overbite occurs when the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth due to misalignment or overcrowding.
This condition is often the result of certain habits or circumstances that have affected the positioning of the teeth. For example, prolonged thumb sucking during childhood, excessive use of pacifiers, or even nail biting can contribute to a dental overbite. Similarly, tooth loss can cause the remaining teeth to shift, leading to a potential overbite.
In contrast to a dental overbite, a skeletal overbite is caused by the jaw, not the teeth. Specifically, it occurs when there’s a physical imbalance in the size or position of the upper and lower jaw. The upper jaw may be too large, or the lower jaw may be too small, causing the upper teeth to protrude over the lower teeth when the mouth is closed.
Since this overbite is related to the bone structure, it’s often more complex to treat. While braces or aligners may still be part of the treatment plan, severe cases of skeletal overbite might require orthognathic surgery. This surgical procedure adjusts the jaw’s position, helping to correct the overbite.
Untreated overbite can lead to several problems. The most immediate are functional issues, such as difficulty in speaking and eating. An overbite can affect the way you articulate words and how you chew food, which can lead to digestive problems.
Furthermore, an overbite can cause damage to other teeth and gums. The excessive overlap of the upper teeth can cause wear and tear on the lower teeth, and the misalignment can contribute to gum disease. Other potential risks include increased susceptibility to tooth decay, jaw pain, and even sleep apnea.
An aesthetic concern also arises with an overbite. It can impact one’s confidence and self-esteem, especially in this age where a perfect smile is often sought after.
Diagnosis of an overbite involves a simple oral examination by a dentist or orthodontist. They will look at the alignment of your teeth and the relationship between your upper and lower jaw.
For a more detailed view of your teeth and jawbone, they may also take X-rays. These images allow them to measure the severity of your overbite accurately. The severity of an overbite is usually measured in millimetres and is referred to as an overbite depth.
According to Dr Lawrence Yong, Orthodontic Specialist in Singapore, the appropriate treatment for overbite depends significantly on its severity and the patient’s age.
For children and teenagers, braces are the most common treatment. Braces apply pressure to the teeth and jaws to move them into the desired position.
For adults, more comprehensive treatment may be required. Invisalign aligners have become a popular choice due to their near-invisibility and comfort. They work similarly to braces but are less noticeable and can be removed for eating and cleaning.
In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. This is usually the last resort when other treatments cannot correct the overbite.
While it’s impossible to prevent a genetically inherited overbite, you can prevent the condition from worsening or developing due to acquired behaviours. Discouraging thumb sucking and prolonged use of pacifiers in children can significantly help prevent overbite.
Regular dental check-ups from an early age also aid in early detection and treatment. These regular visits allow your dentist to monitor your child’s oral development and intervene when necessary, preventing the progression of any potential overbite.
Understanding and managing overbite is crucial to maintaining good oral health and well-being. Early detection and appropriate treatment, including options like Invisalign, can help prevent complications associated with this condition. Therefore, regular dental check-ups should be part of everyone’s healthcare routine. Always consult with a dental professional to determine the best action for any dental concerns.