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Overbite: Stages, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and More

Overbites are a condition that affects many individuals worldwide. Around 20% of adult individuals suffer from class II malocclusion or overbite. Around 23% of children suffer from class II malocclusion (1).

What is an overbite?

Dental overbite is a form of malocclusion. Overbite is a common dental condition characterized by the upper teeth overlapping the lower teeth excessively when the mouth is closed (2). This misalignment can vary in severity and may lead to various complications if left untreated.

Stages of overbite

Dental overbite can be classified into different stages based on the severity of the misalignment.

  • Mild Overbite: In this stage, the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth when the mouth is closed, but the misalignment is not severe enough to cause significant functional or aesthetic concerns.
  • Moderate Overbite: The upper teeth overlap the lower teeth to a greater extent, resulting in a more pronounced misalignment. This stage may start to affect chewing, speech, and overall dental health.
  • Severe Overbite: At this stage, the upper teeth significantly protrude over the lower teeth, leading to noticeable aesthetic changes and potential functional impairments. Severe overbites often require prompt intervention to prevent complications.


The symptoms of dental overbite can vary depending on the severity of the condition.

  • Visible protrusion of the upper teeth (3)
  • Difficulty biting or chewing food properly (2)
  • Speech difficulties, such as lisping or difficulty pronouncing certain words (4)
  • Jaw pain or discomfort, especially when chewing
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which may cause pain or clicking sounds in the jaw joint
  • Aesthetic concerns, such as an uneven smile or facial asymmetry (5)

Causes of Overbite

Several factors can contribute to the development of dental overbite.

  • Genetics: Genetics plays a significant role in determining the size and shape of the jaw and the position of the teeth. Individuals with a family history of malocclusion are more likely to develop dental overbite (6).
  • Childhood Habits: Certain childhood habits, such as thumb sucking, prolonged pacifier use, or tongue thrusting, can affect the alignment of the teeth and contribute to the development of overbite (7).
  • Poor Oral Habits: Inadequate dental hygiene, including irregular brushing and flossing, can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. If teeth are lost prematurely due to decay and gum disease this can lead to subsequent misalignment of the teeth (8).
  • Dental Injuries: Trauma to the mouth or jaw can disrupt the natural alignment of the teeth and contribute to the development of overbite.


The treatment of dental overbite depends on its severity and underlying causes.

  • Orthodontic Treatment: Braces or clear aligners may be recommended to gradually shift the position of the teeth and correct the overbite.
  • Jaw Surgery: In cases of severe overbite or skeletal malocclusion, surgical intervention may be necessary to reposition the jaw bones and achieve proper alignment (3).
  • Dental Appliances: In some cases, removable dental appliances such as retainers or palate expanders may be used to correct overbite. In children, with developing jaws, these therapies may be successful as their jaw can still be manipulated during the growth phases.
  • Tooth Extraction: In certain situations, the extraction of one or more teeth may be necessary to create space and facilitate proper alignment of the remaining teeth.

Risk Factors

Several factors can influence the development of an overbite. While some are modifiable risks, others are inherited or cannot be modified.

  • Genetics: This is a nonmodifiable risk factor. Having a family history of malocclusion can predispose individuals to develop dental overbite. Often malocclusion can be hereditary with similar patterns and jaw shapes inherited and passed down between generations.
  • Childhood Habits: This is a modifiable risk factor. Persistent thumb sucking, pacifier use, or tongue thrusting beyond infancy can affect the alignment of the teeth and contribute to overbite (9). Habits should be identified and stopped early. Healthcare and dental providers can assist with methods to break habits early in childhood. Early detection and deterrence are key in malocclusion intervention.
  • Poor Oral Hygiene: Neglecting oral hygiene practices can lead to tooth decay and gum disease (10). Severe tooth decay and gum disease can cause loss of teeth. Loss of teeth can lead to misalignment (11).
  • Traumatic Injuries: Accidents or injuries involving the mouth or jaw can disrupt the natural alignment of the teeth and increase the risk of overbite.


Diagnosing dental overbite typically involves a comprehensive dental examination conducted by a dentist or orthodontist. During the examination, the healthcare provider will assess the alignment of the teeth, the relationship between the upper and lower jaws, and any associated symptoms or complications. In some cases, dental X-rays or other imaging tests may be ordered to evaluate the underlying bone structure and plan appropriate treatment. The most common X-ray utilized to diagnose overbite is a cephalogram. Dental providers may also take study models or a digital scan to help evaluate the overbite severity.


While some risk factors for dental overbite, such as genetics, cannot be controlled, several preventive measures can help reduce the risk of developing this condition.

  • Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Brushing teeth at least twice a day, flossing daily, and attending regular dental check-ups can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and subsequent misalignment of the teeth (12).
  • Address Childhood Habits: Encouraging children to discontinue thumb sucking, pacifier use, or tongue thrusting at an early age can help prevent the development of overbite (13). Dental providers can help suggest methods for habit-breaking.
  • Wear Protective Gear: Wearing mouthguards or other protective gear during sports or recreational activities can help prevent traumatic injuries to the mouth or jaw.
  • Seek Early Intervention: Promptly addressing any dental concerns or abnormalities in childhood can help prevent the progression of malocclusion and minimize the need for extensive treatment later in life.


Dental overbite is a common dental condition that can have significant implications for oral health and overall well-being. Understanding the stages, symptoms, causes, treatment options, risk factors, diagnoses, and prevention strategies associated with this condition is essential for maintaining optimal dental health and addressing any concerns. If you suspect you or your child may have dental overbite, consult with a qualified dental professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.