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

Are you aware that the terms overbite and overjet are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings? Our dentists in North York can explain the difference and offer potential solutions using clear aligners.

What are overbites and overjets?

Orthodontic issues such as overbites and overjets are quite common. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to two distinct conditions.


An overbite can also be referred to as a deep bite and happens when one-third of the lower incisors are covered by the upper front teeth while your jaw is in a closed position. The vertical nature of this issue distinguishes it from an overjet, which is horizontal.


An overjet, also known as "buck teeth," occurs when the upper front teeth protrude horizontally over the bottom teeth, resulting in a considerable overlap. Although it's natural for the upper front teeth to rest slightly in front of the lower teeth when closing your mouth, a gap of more than 2 millimeters can lead to complications.

 While an overbite is vertical, an overjet is horizontal, causing the upper teeth to extend past the bottom teeth at an angle. However, in an overbite, the teeth remain straight or point downwards, without any angle.

How are overbite and overjet caused?

Overbite is a common dental issue that occurs when the lower jaw is smaller than the upper jaw. This causes the lower teeth to rest behind the upper teeth, leading to downward movement as teeth wear down. As a result, more gum may show on the upper teeth, and the upper front teeth may sit slightly lower than the upper side teeth (canines).

Overbites can also arise from childhood habits such as tongue-thrusting, prolonged pacifier or thumb-sucking, nail-biting, or chewing on objects like erasers or pens. Similarly, overjet can result from childhood habits like finger or thumb-sucking that persist when adult teeth emerge.

Additionally, overjet may occur if the lower jawbone fails to keep up with the forward growth of the upper jawbone, leading to the teeth being situated behind where they should be for an ideal smile. Genetic factors can also contribute to 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.

An overjet increases the risk of damaging or fracturing your teeth. Some overjets are barely noticeable as they are moderate, while others are more severe and can make it difficult to close your lips completely due to the poor alignment of teeth. You may also notice challenges with chewing or biting.

Can an overbite or overjet be treated with clear aligners?

In case the overbite or overjet is caused by a skeletal issue, we would suggest consulting with your dentist to look into other options like surgery, rather than opting for clear aligners. However, if the overjet or overbite is due to any of the problems mentioned above, we may be able to address it with clear aligners. In a personalized treatment plan, your dentist will prescribe gradual pressure to your teeth, moving them into the desired positions. This will help you achieve a more symmetrical and straighter smile. 

Clear aligners also adjust the gum line proportionately, ensuring a balanced smile. You'll need to wear the aligners for approximately 22 hours a day and remove them when you brush, floss, eat, and drink. The aligners will progressively shift your teeth, and you'll switch to a new set every two weeks, with your custom treatment plan possibly involving up to 26 trays, which equates to one tray every two weeks for a year.

Before beginning the treatment, your dentist can show you a preview of how your smile will look at the end of the treatment. Take the first step towards clear aligners by scheduling a consultation with your dentist to determine if they are the right fit for you.

Would you like to find out whether clear aligners would help fix your overbite or overjet? Contact our North York dentists to book a consultation today.

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