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Overbite vs. Overjet: How Can You Tell the Difference - and Can Clear Aligners Help?

While the terms overbite and overjet are often used interchangeably, they are distinct from each other. Our dentists in Peterborough explain the difference and how we might be able to recommend clear aligners to correct either issue. 

What are overbites and overjets?

Two of the most commonly diagnosed orthodontic issues are overbites and overjets. Though these terms are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these two conditions. 


Also called a deep bite, an overbite occurs when the upper front teeth cover one-third of the lower incisors when your jaw is in a closed position. This issue is characterized by its vertical nature, which distinguishes it from the horizontal overjet. 


Often referred to as "buck teeth", an overjet happens when the upper front teeth protrude over the bottom teeth. This creates a significant horizontal overlap. 

While upper front teeth normally rest slightly in front of your lower teeth when your mouth is closed, any space of more than 2 millimetres will cause problems. 

Overbites are vertical, while overjets are horizontal and result in the upper teeth protruding past the bottom teeth at an angle. With an overbite, the teeth remain straight or downward (not on an angle). 

How are overbite and overjet caused?

The most common cause for overbite is that the upper jaw is somewhat larger than the lower jaw, causing the lower teeth to rest behind the upper teeth and move downwards as wear and tear on your teeth occurs. 

Your upper teeth will tend to show more gum and the upper front teeth sit slightly lower than the teeth beside them (canines, or upper side teeth). 

If a patient had a tongue-thrusting habit or was permitted to suck on an object (usually a pacifier or thumb) for too long as a child, this can cause overjet if the habits persist when adult teeth start to erupt. Another common cause is the lower jawbone (mandible) failing to keep up with the upper jawbone's (maxillary) forward growth. The disparity in growth results in the bottom jawbone (and the teeth) ending up situated behind where they should be to form an ideal smile. 

Genetic factors can also cause overbite or overjet.

What dental problems can overbite and overjet create?

In extreme cases of overbite, the lower teeth may touch the gum tissue behind the upper front teeth, creating wear on the teeth and gum tissue.

With an overjet, your risk for damaging your teeth or fracturing them increases. Some overjets are barely noticeable as they are moderate, while others are more severe and can make it difficult to close your lips completely due to poor alignment of teeth. You may also notice challenges with chewing or biting.

Can an overbite or overjet be treated with clear aligners?

If the overbite or overjet is skeletal in nature, we would not recommend clear aligners and instead suggest speaking to your dentist to explore other options, such as surgery.

However, if the overjet or overbite is caused by one of the issues listed above, we may be able to treat the problem with clear aligners. The aligners will apply gradual pressure to your teeth to move them into corrected positions as prescribed by your dentist in a custom treatment plan. This will leave you with a straighter, more symmetrical smile.

The clear aligners also move your gum at the same time, keeping proportions in check. You will need to wear your clear aligners for about 22 hours each day, removing them to brush, floss, eat and drink.

Your teeth will progressively shift with the aligners, and you’ll switch to a new set approximately every two weeks. Your custom treatment plan could involve wearing as many as 26 trays, which equates to one tray every two weeks for 12 months.

Before you start your treatment, your dentist will be able to show you a preview of how your new smile will look by the end of your treatment. Take the first step to schedule a consultation with your dentist to learn if you are a candidate for clear aligners.

Would you like to find out whether clear aligners would help fix your overbite or overjet? Contact our Peterborough dentists to book a consultation today.

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