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

Did you know that the terms overbite and overjet are frequently used interchangeably but are not interchangeable? Our Village Orthodontics - Oakville team explains the differences and how clear aligners can help with either problem.

What are overbites and overjets?

Overbites and overjets are two of the most common orthodontic issues. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between these two conditions.


An overbite, also known as a deep bite, occurs when the upper front teeth cover one-third of the lower incisors while your jaw is closed. The vertical nature of this problem distinguishes it from a horizontal overjet.


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

While it’s normal for upper front teeth to rest slightly in front of your lower teeth when closing your mouth, any space of more than 2 millimetres will cause issues.

Overbites are vertical, whereas overjets are horizontal, causing the upper teeth to protrude at an angle past the lower teeth. An overbite, on the other hand, keeps the teeth pointing downward or straight (not on an angle).

How are overbite and overjet caused?

The most common cause of overbite is a lower jaw that is slightly smaller than the upper jaw, causing the lower teeth to rest behind the upper teeth and move downwards as your teeth wear down.

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

Overbites can happen if a patient has a tongue-thrusting habit or was allowed to suck on an object for too long as a child (usually a pacifier or thumb). This problem can also be caused by biting one's nails or chewing on objects like erasers or pens.

Childhood habits like finger or thumb sucking, which are similar to overbites, can lead to overjet as adult teeth emerge. Another common cause is that the lower jawbone (mandible) does not keep up with the development of the upper jawbone's forward growth (maxillary). Because of the disparity in growth, the bottom jawbone (and, as a result, the teeth) end up being positioned 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.

You're more likely to damage or fracture your teeth if you have an overjet. Some overjets are barely noticeable because they are mild, but others are more severe and can make it difficult to completely close your lips due to poor tooth alignment. You might also have difficulty chewing or biting.

Can an overbite or overjet be treated with clear aligners?

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

If one of the issues listed above is causing the overjet or overbite, we may be able to treat the problem with clear aligners. The aligners will gradually apply pressure to your teeth, causing them to move into the correct positions as prescribed by your dentist in a personalized treatment plan. This should give you a more symmetrical, straighter smile.

At the same time, the clear aligners move your gums, keeping proportions in check. Wear your clear aligners for approximately 22 hours per day, removing them only to brush, floss, eat and drink.

The aligners will gradually shift your teeth, and you'll switch to a new set every two weeks or so. Wearing as many as 26 trays, or one tray every two weeks for 12 months, could be part of your personalized treatment plan.

Your dentist will be able to show you a preview of how your new smile will look at the end of your treatment before you begin. To find out if you're a candidate for clear aligners, start by scheduling a consultation with your dentist.

Would you like to find out whether clear aligners would help fix your overbite or overjet? Contact our Village Orthodontics - Oakville team to book a consultation today. Or find a Village Orthodontics location near you.

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Whether you're considering treatment for yourself or your child, we have an orthodontist waiting for you at one of our seven locations across Ontario.

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