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

Did you know that while the terms overbite and overjet are often used interchangeably, they are actually distinct dental issues from one another? Here, our Burnaby dentists explain the differences between the two and how either may be corrected using clear aligners.

What are overbites and overjets?

Overjets and overbites are two relatively common orthodontic issues. Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are differences between the two conditions.


An overbite is often called a deep bite. It occurs when one third of a person's lower incisors are covered by their upper front teeth with a closed jaw. The vertical nature of this issue is what distinguishes it from an overjet which is horizontal.


Commonly called “buck teeth” an overjet is when the upper front teeth protrude over the bottom teeth, creating a significant horizontal overlap.

While it is normal for the upper front teeth to rest slightly in front of the lower ones, any space more than 2 millimeters between the two while your mouth is closed will cause oral health issues. 

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

How are overbite and overjet caused?

The common causes for overbite is a smaller lower jaw than upper. This results in the lower teeth resting behind the upper teeth and moving downwards as they wear down.

More gum will tend to 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.

Similar to overbites, childhood habits like thumb-sucking can cause overjet if they continue as adult teeth emerge. Another common cause is the failure of the lower jawbone to keep up with the development of the upper jaw bone. 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.

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.

When it comes to overjet, the risk of damaging or fracturing your teeth increases. Some overjets aren't noticeable, since they are more moderate, while overs can be quite severe and make it difficult to close your lips completely because of the poor tooth alignment. 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.

Are you looking to discover whether or not clear aligners can help to fix your overjet or overbite? Contact our Burnaby dentists to book a consultation today.

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