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Orthodontic Solutions for Overbites and Underbites

Properly aligned teeth allow us to chew and speak without difficulty. They also keep us from biting our cheeks and our tongues, and they allow for proper cleaning so we can prevent tooth decay.

But we aren’t all blessed with naturally aligned teeth. Some of us have what’s called malocclusion, or badly aligned teeth. This means that the teeth of the upper and lower jaws don’t connect properly. Overbites and underbites are two specific types of malocclusion that can cause difficulties with everyday activities such as speaking and chewing. Fortunately, there are orthodontic solutions to correct both conditions.

But before we talk solutions, let’s define overbites and underbites.


When your top teeth extend beyond your bottom teeth, it’s called an overbite. It’s also sometimes referred to as “buck teeth.” Overbites make up nearly 70% of dental disorders among children and fall into two categories: horizontal and vertical. Horizontal overbites are when the top teeth protrude too much. Vertical overbites are where the top teeth overlap the bottom teeth too much.

Overbites can cause:

  • Speech impediments, such as lisps
  • Problems chewing and eating
  • Jaw pain
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Higher risk of front tooth damage
  • Soft tissue damage due to bottom teeth hitting roof of mouth


When your bottom teeth are too far forward or your upper teeth are too far back, it’s called an underbite. An underbite makes the chin look overly prominent. Like overbites, underbites can be mild or severe. In a mild underbite, the upper and lower teeth nearly meet, while in a severe underbite, the teeth don’t meet at all.

Underbites can cause:

  • Speech impediments
  • Problems chewing and eating
  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches and earaches
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Chronic mouth breathing
  • Sleep apnea, snoring, and difficulty breathing at night

Orthodontic solutions for overbites and underbites

There are several different solutions for correcting overbites and underbites. Your orthodontist will help you understand which is best for you, but here are a few options:

Invisalign for overbites

Invisalign is a treatment option that uses a series of transparent trays worn 22 hours a day over the teeth. During the course of an Invisalign treatment (nine months to a year), the trays are switched out every two weeks, and will gradually shift the teeth into place. Invisalign is best for minor overbite treatment, but will not work in severe cases.

Braces for overbites and underbites

Braces are the most common type of orthodontic correction. They consist of brackets on the front teeth and bands on the back teeth. For overbites, braces use a two-stage process, first getting all the teeth straight by correcting any turning or twisting, and then pushing the top teeth (including the molars) back where they belong. The bottom teeth may also be nudged forward to achieve a proper bite.

Braces may also be used for an underbite caused by poor positioning of teeth.

Headgear for overbites

This appliance has a U-shaped wire that attaches to the braces at the back teeth and a strap worn behind the neck (or over the head). They help pull the upper teeth into position, and they’re typically worn 12 to 14 hours a day to help correct an excessive horizontal overbite.

Upper jaw expander for underbites

This wire-frame device fits across the patient’s palate, and each night, a key widens the expander just a fraction. Gradually, the upper jaw widens until the lower jaw no longer closes against the outside of the uppers. This expander is worn for about a year until it is replaced with a retainer.

Reverse-pull face mask for underbites

This appliance consists of two pads (one resting on the forehead, one on the chin) connected by a vertical frame. It uses metal bands fastened to the upper back teeth to exert a pulling force that makes the upper jaw grow forward more so that the upper and lower teeth are in alignment. It must be worn 14 to 16 hours a day. This treatment is best when started around 8 or 9 while children are still growing.  It is less effective on teenagers.

Come see us at Soft Touch Dental

At Soft Touch Dental in San Diego, we provide customizable orthodontic services for treating both overbites and underbites. If you have questions about any of our treatments or services, please give us a call or drop by our office in Clairemont. We look forward to serving you.

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