What is an Overbite and How is it Corrected?

Dr. Graham Gardner and Dr. Dana Tang are board-certified orthodontists. Aside from being your favorite doctors, this also means they have the training and expertise to diagnose, prevent and treat malocclusion, or a bad bite. Malocclusion is when there is an issue with the alignment of the teeth or jaw, which affects how the upper and lower dental arches come together when the mouth is closed. One of the most common types of malocclusion Dr. Gardner and Dr. Tang see at Gardner Orthodontics is an excessive overbite, also known as a deep bite. 

In this post, we’ll cover:

What is an Overbite?

Overbite is the measurement of the degree that the top front teeth overlap the bottom front teeth. While almost everyone has at least a bit of an overbite, which is normal, when the vertical overlap is too large, it’s considered an excessive overbite, or class 2 malocclusion. An excessive overbite, also called a deep bite, can be skeletal (related to the size or position of the jaw), dental (related to the position of the teeth) or even a combination of both. Since no two sets of teeth are alike, patients can also have other issues in conjunction with an overbite. 

The most severe form of an excessive overbite is an impinging overbite. This is when the bottom teeth hit the roof of the mouth behind the top teeth when the jaws are closed. However, as we’ll discuss shortly, any form of excessive overbite, impinging or not, should be treated by an orthodontist to prevent complications. 

What does an overbite look like? Well, aside from the top teeth overlapping the bottom teeth to a significant degree, an excessive overbite can also affect the face, particularly when it’s severe or skeletal in nature. Patients with an overbite may have the appearance of a “weak” or receding chin and an undefined lower jaw. 

What’s the Difference Between an Overbite vs. Overjet?

The terms overbite and overjet are often used interchangeably. This is understandable because the problems are similar and many patients with overjet teeth also have an overbite, or deep bite. However, technically, there is a difference between an overbite and overjet teeth. Overbite refers to the vertical overlap of the front top teeth over the front bottom teeth, while overjet is the horizontal distance between the front upper teeth and front lower teeth. 

A patient is said to have overjet teeth, often called “buck teeth” or protruding teeth, when their front top teeth flare out over the bottom teeth. We can use braces and Invisalign® for overjet teeth correction. Both braces and aligners will shift overjet teeth back into their ideal places. 

What Causes an Overbite?

The causes of an overbite can include:


The most common cause of an overbite is genetics. This is because the size and shape of the jaw and teeth are usually inherited. When there’s a problem with the growth and development of the jaw or teeth, it can create an overbite, or deep bite. Most often, it’s the result of a lower jaw that’s too small. 

Misaligned Teeth

A dental overbite occurs when the teeth are misaligned, leading to an excessive overlap between the two arches. Crowding is often the culprit. While this can be genetic and related to the size of the jaw, it may also be due to things like the early loss of baby teeth.

A Missing Lower Tooth

 A missing bottom tooth can create conditions similar to having a lower jaw that’s too small, leading to a deep bite. 

Clenching and Grinding the Teeth (Bruxism)

The extra strong biting muscles that are usually seen in people who clench or grind their teeth can result in the bite deepening.

What Happens if an Overbite Isn’t Treated?

With an excessive overbite, teeth, jaws and the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) can all be impacted. Unfortunately, while we know everyone wishes a deep bite was something you could grow out of, it gets worse as you get older because the bite naturally deepens with age. 

An untreated overbite/deep bite can cause a variety of complications such as:

  • Making you feel self-conscious about your appearance and smile
  • Increasing your risk of tooth decay and gum disease because it’s more difficult to effectively clean your teeth
  • Uneven wear of certain teeth
  • Jaw and TMJ pain, which can also lead to headaches, neck aches and ear pain
  • Difficulties with chewing
  • Speech problems
  • Problems with breathing, including sleep apnea
  • Bone and even tooth loss in cases of an impinging overbite
  • A higher risk of injury to the top front teeth

How to Fix an Overbite

As for how to fix an overbite, it depends on the type of overbite, as well as its severity. In rare cases, a severe skeletal overbite in an adult will require a combination of corrective jaw surgery and orthodontic treatment for optimal results. However, before you panic, thanks to our high-tech approach and expertise, our Richmond orthodontists can fix an overbite without surgery in the vast majority of cases. 

Though every patient is different, and the only way to know for sure is to visit Gardner Orthodontics for an evaluation, options for overbite correction may include:

Braces for an Overbite

If you have an overbite, braces can be a great option, regardless of your age. We can use ceramic braces, metal braces or self-ligating braces, either metal or clear, to fix overbites in a lot of patients. Sometimes, in addition to braces for an overbite, we’ll use extras like rubber bands, which give us the leverage needed to not just achieve straight teeth, but to also bring the upper and lower arch together, closing the overbite.

Invisalign for an Overbite

Can Invisalign fix an overbite? Yes, Invisalign can fix an overbite in most cases. At Gardner Orthodontics, we’re a Diamond Plus Invisalign Provider, which means we’re among the top 1% of Invisalign providers in the country when it comes to case experience. Dr. Gardner is also an Invisalign faculty member and lectures on the treatment nationally and internationally

Our depth of experience ensures we can treat even more complex cases with Invisalign. So, if you have an excessive overbite, Invisalign will likely be an option at our practice! Similar to braces, when using Invisalign for an overbite, we might also use Invisalign attachments and/or rubber bands to help facilitate complicated tooth movements and create a more functional bite

Two-Phase Orthodontic Treatment

The earlier a severe overbite is corrected, particularly if it’s skeletal, the better. This is why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends kids have their first orthodontist visit by age 7. At this point, Dr. Gardner and Dr. Tang can assess a child’s growth and development and get a feel for how their bite is shaping up. 

If they see signs of an emerging overbite/deep bite, they can intervene early and use certain appliances to guide jaw growth in phase 1 orthodontic treatment. This will fix an overbite and ensure the permanent teeth have enough room to erupt. In phase 2 orthodontic treatment, we’ll finetune the patient’s bite and straighten their teeth with braces or Invisalign Teen. For some patients, this will help them avoid the need for extractions or overbite surgery down the road. 

Now that you are well educated on what is an overbite, if you suspect you have an excessive overbite, overjet teeth, or any other smile concerns, schedule a free consultation at Gardner Orthodontics today! Braces and Invisalign can fix an overbite with a treatment plan created by an expert like our Richmond orthodontists. 

Gardner & La Rochelle Orthodontics in Richmond, VA