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

The terms overjets and overbites are often spoken interchangeably however, they are both different conditions. Here, our dentists in Amherstburg  share the differences between overjets and overbites and how clear aligners might be able to correct them.

Overbites & Overjets

Overbites and overjets are two of the most common orthodontic issues. However, people often use these terms interchangeably, when there are actually distinct differences between them.


An overbite (also known as a deep bite) develops 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 problem differentiates it from an overjet, which is horizontal.


Also referred to as “buck teeth” overjets occur when the upper front teeth protrude over the bottom teeth, causing 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 create problems.

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).

What causes overbites and overjets?

Most of the time overbites occur when the lower jaw is somewhat smaller than the upper jaw, resulting in the lower teeth resting behind the upper teeth and moving downwards as wear on your teeth takes place.

Typically more gum will appear on the upper teeth, and the upper front teeth rest slightly lower than the neighbouring teeth (canines, or upper side teeth).

Patients can develop overbites if they had a tongue-thrusting habit or were allowed to suck on an item - most often a pacifier or thumb - for too long as a child. Nial biting or chewing on objects such as pens or erasers can result in this issue.

Similar to overbites, childhood habits such as finger or thumb sucking can cause overjet if they persist when adult teeth begin to emerge. Another common cause is that the lower jawbone (mandible) fails to keep up with the development of the forward growth of the upper jawbone (maxillary). 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 issues can overbites and overjets cause?

In extreme overbite situations, the lower teeth might touch the gum tissue behind the upper front teeth, leading to wear on the teeth and gum tissue.

With an overjet, you have an increased 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 as a result of poor teeth alignment. You might also have difficulty biting or chewing.

Can clear aligners treat overbites or overjet?

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 your treatment begins, your dentist may show you a preview of how your smile could look after your treatment. Take the first step and book a consultation with your dentist to see if you are a candidate for clear aligners.

Contact our Amherstburg dentists today to schedule a consultation and find out if clear aligners can help correct your overjet or overbite.

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