An overbite – when the top front teeth protrude beyond the bottom front teeth – is a reality for many Americans. But some people may choose to disregard their overbite for several reasons. It may be too expensive to correct, or it may not even register as an issue. Some people don’t know what causes an overbite and believe an overbite is an aesthetic issue that can be dealt with or ignored.

It is best to address an overbite as soon as possible, as the dangers of ignoring an overbite can be substantial later. In severe cases, overbites can cause jaw pain, gum disease, or tooth decay and even require surgery to correct misalignment. Read further to understand why you should pay attention to your overbite.

Overbites can cause long-term dental issues

An overbite is far more than an aesthetic issue. An overbite can often lead to long-term dental problems requiring expensive and extensive care later in life. Tooth damage, jaw misalignment and speech problems are all dental issues that can impact oral health and cause pain, discomfort and poor quality of life.

Tooth damage and gum disease

Overbites can cause the teeth to wear down more quickly. The teeth grind together unnaturally, which harms the protective enamel. When enamel erodes, the risk of tooth sensitivity and tooth decay rises. Many people don’t realize that an overbite can cause cavities.

Overbites also have a significant relationship with gum disease. When the top front teeth protrude too far, they can hit the gum in the opposite jaw while chewing. This can cause inflamed, swollen, or damaged gum tissue, which are precursors to gum disease and tooth loss.

Jaw misalignment and TMJ disorder

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone to the skull and acts as a hinge. A dysfunctional TMJ joint can cause jaw and jaw muscle pain. An overbite is a type of jaw misalignment and a misaligned jaw can cause TMJ issues. Jaw misalignment, also called malocclusion, is one of the most common reasons for going to the orthodontist. 

Speech issues

An overbite can cause major speech issues only correctable by surgery or using aligners. When the teeth are misaligned, it may be impossible to pronounce certain sounds. Consonant sounds such as “t” or “s” that require the tongue to contact the tooth could be difficult. This is especially true if the overbite is also an open bite with a substantial gap between the teeth. Other speech issues include lisps, whistling and slurring of words. 

How to treat an overbite

Braces, invisible aligners, palate expanders and retainers are all options for treating an overbite. Treatment is most common in children, addressing the issue before it becomes a bigger problem later in life. Palate expanders can reposition the jaw during the critical years of growth while braces slowly realign the teeth. Retainers keep the teeth in place following braces. Tooth removal is also an option, allowing more room for adult teeth. 

Treatment is also available for adults, including clear aligners aimed at moving only the teeth impacted by the overbite. Surgery may be necessary to correct malocclusion. 

People affected by an overbite can take several steps to make their lives easier. Excellent oral care is a must and night guards can protect the teeth during sleep. Visiting the dentist every six months is also critical to maintaining good oral care.

Bottom line

An overbite presents structural and aesthetic issues that are often too critical to ignore. Waiting to get treatment for an overbite can lead to long-term damage to your teeth, gums and jaw. If the procedure is unaffordable, talk with your orthodontist to learn about how much aligners cost . They may offer a monthly payment plan to make your crucial treatment a reality.