What to Do If My Child Has an Overbite
An overbite is completely normal and many people with beautiful smiles have a small overbite. However, when your upper teeth protrude over your bottom teeth more than normal, the overbite may create problems. How can you know when an overbite needs to be treated, and can it be prevented or treated at home?
It is normal for your top teeth to overlap your bottom teeth a little bit. When the top teeth significantly overlap or protrude over the bottom teeth, the overbite becomes categorized as a malocclusion. Even a mouth with perfectly straight teeth can have problems if the overbite is too large.
An overjet is different than an overbite and may require different treatments. An overjet is how far forward the upper teeth are in front of the lower teeth, while an overbite is how far down the upper teeth cover the lower teeth.
Overbites fall into two main categories, and each will respond better to different treatments. A dental overbite occurs when the teeth are misaligned, causing your lower jaw to be pushed back toward your neck. A skeletal overbite occurs when the upper and lower jaw are the problem and do not align well.
A variety of factors can cause an overbite. Genetics, facial development, TMJ disorder, teeth grinding, and myofunctional habits can all cause or worsen an overbite. You cannot do anything about genetics, but in some cases, facial development can be influenced as a child grows. Myofunctional habits, teeth grinding, and TMJ disorder can be addressed before they create lasting damage.
Myofunctional habits that increase an overbite are nail-biting, tongue thrusting or improper tongue positioning, prolonged thumb or finger sucking, extended pacifier use, and overuse of bottles and sippy cups. These habits may force the upper jaw and/or teeth forward while pushing the lower jaw backward during early development. The good news is that early intervention corrects the habit, so while developing, the mouth has a chance to naturally reverse the damage.
Potential consequences for not treating an overbite.
An overbite can negatively impact your child’s mouth in many ways. Here of some of the most common complications of an untreated overbite.
- Abnormal wear on tooth enamel resulting in tooth decay and gum disease
- Altered facial structure
- Crowded or crooked teeth
- Excessive jaw tension that may cause jaw pain or headaches
- Higher risk of damaged front teeth
- Negative impact on the developing mouth and jaw
- Poor self-esteem
- Problems chewing and eating
- Sleep apnea
- Soft tissue damage if bottom front teeth touch the roof of the mouth
- Speech impediments
- TMJ disorders
Can an overbite be treated at home?
You do need to see an orthodontist to correct an overbite. However, when habits are contributing to an overbite, if you end the habit while your child is still growing the damage may reverse itself. Here are some general guidelines to help minimize the negative impact that perfectly normal habits can have on your child’s mouth.
Try to limit pacifier use and thumb or finger sucking in your child’s third and fourth year and help them to end the habit by age five.
Overuse of bottles and sippy cups can contribute to an overbite, so try to transition your toddler to a regular cup as soon as they are physically capable of using it.
When a person’s mouth is closed, their tongue should gently rest against the roof of the mouth with the tip slightly behind the front teeth. If the tongue is improperly positioned while at rest, or while swallowing or speaking, it can cause an overbite and other orthodontic problems. It is important to identify and treat tongue positioning problems.
Nail-biting or chewing on writing utensils can be a habit continued into adulthood. These habits often make an overbite worse, even after the mouth is finished developing. The habits may stem from stress, tension, boredom, loneliness, and hunger. If you can identify the triggers, it is easier to find a way to break the habit.
When to seek treatment.
An overbite can be treated at any age. However, it is easier to treat in younger children because their mouths are still developing. The American Dental Association recommends beginning treatment between the ages of 8 and 14. Early treatment is beneficial because it can prevent or minimize further complications.
How We Treat an Overbite.
Soft drinks usually have a very low pH and diet options are often even more acidic. Many types of soft drinks come with additional risk to your teeth. The high acidity thins your enamel, while the high sugar content feeds the bacteria that cause cavities. Additional, soft drinks stick to your teeth even better than saliva does!
Many different studies have found that soft drink consumption leads to a much greater risk of cavities (3). One study found that drinking soft drinks three times a day increases your risk of cavities by 179% (4).
Many sport and energy drinks also contain plenty of sugar, but not nearly as much as the average soft drink. Don’t forget to check the labels to see how much sugar is in the drinks you choose!
Carriere Motion Appliance – Patient progress photos from September 2019 through January 2020
Herbst Appliance – Patient before photos taken November 2019. In Progress photos taken January 2020.
Sometimes, when a baby tooth has not fallen out long past the normal time it causes crowding and is a contributing factor of the overbite. If this is the case, we may recommend that the tooth be removed.
Depending on the type of overbite, children and adults may need braces or invisible aligners. They will slowly move the teeth into alignment, allowing the jaws to move into the proper position and correct the overbite. Elastics, also known as rubber bands, may be used with braces to help the upper and lower teeth fit together.
In severe cases, adults may need tooth extractions or surgery. Extremely crowded teeth that cause an overbite may not have enough room to move into good alignment, requiring extraction of one or more teeth.
Unfortunately, if some issues are not corrected orthodontically at an age where the growth and development can be guided, then surgery may be the only option as an adult. In this case, it is used as a last resort for skeletal overbites in adults.
You may have always thought of an overbite as merely having an impact on the way a smile looks. Correcting an overbite may produce a more attractive smile, but it can also create a much healthier mouth and eliminate future complications. We are excited to help you and your family enjoy the healthiest mouth possible, whether it’s by providing resources to end a habit that is no longer healthy for your child’s mouth, begin early orthodontic treatment to prevent future complications, or help you gain the straight, healthy smile you’ve always wanted.
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.