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

The terms 'overbite' and 'overjet' are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct from each other! Our Orleans dentists explain the difference and how the issue could be corrected with clear aligners.

What are overjets and overbites?

Overbites and overjets are both common orthodontic issues. While these terms are frequently used interchangeably, they are both different conditions.


An overbite (also called a deep bite), develops when one-third of the lower incisors are covered by the upper front teeth while your jaw is in a closed position. This problem is vertical in nature, where overjets are horizontal.


Also referred to as “buck teeth,” overjets are when the upper front teeth protrude over the bottom teeth, causing a significant horizontal overlap.

While it’s normal for upper front teeth to rest slightly in front of your lower teeth when a person's mouth is closed, any space of more than 2 millimetres will create problems.

Overbites are vertical, while overjets are horizontal and make the upper teeth protrude past the bottom teeth at an angle. But with an overbite, the teeth stay downward or straight (not on an angle).

How do people get overbites and overjets?

Most of the time overbites occur when the lower jaw is somewhat smaller than the upper jaw, making the lower teeth rest behind the upper teeth and moving downwards as wear on your teeth takes place.

Typically, more gum will show on your upper teeth, and your upper front teeth sit slightly lower than the teeth beside them (upper side teeth, or canines).

Overbites can occur 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. Biting the nails or chewing on objects such as erasers or pens can also cause this issue.

Just like overbites, childhood habits like finger or thumb sucking can result in overjets if they continue when adult teeth begin to erupt. Another common cause is when the lower jawbone (mandible) fails to keep up with the development of the forward growth of the upper jawbone (maxillary). This disparity in growth results in the bottom jawbone (and consequently the teeth), ending up situated behind where they should be for an ideal smile.

Overbite and overjet can also be caused by a number of genetic factors.

What dental problems can overbites and overjets cause?

In very serious overbite cases, the lower teeth may touch the gum tissue behind the upper front teeth, resulting in wear on the teeth and gum tissue.

With an overjet, you have a higher risk of damaging or fracturing your teeth. 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 the poor alignment of teeth. You may also notice challenges with chewing or biting.

Can clear aligners help correct an overbite or overjet?

If the overbite or overjet is skeletal in nature, we don't suggest using clear aligners and instead recommend talking to your dentist about other options, such as surgery.

Although, if the overjet or overbite is the result of 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.

Contact our Orleans dentists and schedule an appointment today if you want to find out if clear aligners can fix your overbite or overjet.

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