An overbite, also referred to as buck teeth, occurs when the top front teeth surpass the bottom front teeth. Overbites are pretty common, with many people living with relatively slight ones. However, while overbites are perfectly fine to live with, leaving them untreated can lead to damaging consequences for your teeth, mouth, and overall health. More severe overbites can even cause tooth decay, jaw pain, or even gum disease.
An overbite is considered a malocclusion, a medical term for crooked or misaligned teeth. It occurs when the front teeth stick out over the lower front teeth. While an overbite may not cause obvious health problems, an uncorrected overbite can cause:
- Gum disease
- Jaw pain
- Cavities or tooth decay
- Speech problems
- Breathing challenges
- Pain or difficulty chewing
What Causes an Overbite?
Overbites are widely genetic. Certain genetic traits, including the shape of a person’s jaw, can have an impact on the way your teeth are aligned.
Other potential causes of an overbite include:
- Teeth grinding
- Thumb sucking
- Tongue thrusting
- Using a pacifier
- Uncontrolled nail biting
If you have an overbite, you may notice jaw pain, speech difficulties, discomfort while eating, or being unable to open or fully close your mouth.
Risks of Untreated Overbites
Like many other dental issues, overbites can range from mild to severe. Overbites that fall into the mild range can be a simple aesthetic concern. It is even possible to not know you have an overbite at this stage. However, more severe overbites can have a negative impact on your oral health.
There are various complications associated with an untreated overbite, such as:
- Facial pain
- If your teeth and jaw are misaligned, it can cause issues with chewing and talking. As a result, you may experience facial pain. If your overbite is severe, you may notice discomfort upon chewing or biting. Headaches are also common. These symptoms can lead to TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder).
- Untimely wear and tear
- Overbites can really put a strain on your gums, teeth, and palate. This is probably seen as one of the more severe consequences of leaving an overbite untreated. If you have a severe overbite, your front teeth put substantial wear on your bottom teeth. It is also possible for your bottom teeth to rub against your gums behind your upper teeth. This can cause your gums to recede and even put you at an increased risk of tooth decay.
- Deficient mouth function
- Living with an overbite can cause abnormal mouth function. These abnormalities can include speech problems, mouth breathing, and difficulty chewing.
- Aesthetic changes
- Finally, an overbite can alter the shape of your mouth overall. While a minor overbite can cause slight embarrassment, more extreme overbites can have a major impact on the appearance of your face and can be damaging to your self-confidence.
How are Overbites Treated?
Overbites can negatively impact your oral health. However, orthodontic intervention can change that and help in restoring your confidence.
Overbites are easier to treat in children because their jaws are still in the stages of developing. However, adults tend to experience major overbite symptoms and consequences later in life due to a lack of early preventative treatment. In both cases, an orthodontist will examine the area and create a treatment plan. Treatment plans may linger for more than two years depending on the severity of your overbite. X-rays will be taken to determine the type of overbite the patient has and the extent of jaw damage.
There are several orthodontic treatments available to correct overbites. Some of these options include:
- Clear aligners
- Tooth extraction
- Palate expansion
It is also possible for your treatment plan to include a variety of treatments and therapies to help in realigning your jaw and straightening your teeth.
So, are overbites really bad for your dental health? Depending on the severity of your overbite, an untreated overbite can jeopardize your oral health and cause a host of problems. Complications can range from jaw pain to difficulty sleeping. Untreated overbites can also change the structure of your face and put a damper on your self-esteem. Fortunately, there are various corrective measures to treat an overbite ranging from braces to tooth extraction. Your orthodontist will determine the severity of your overbite, prepare a treatment plan, and help in restoring your confidence.