Woman with overlapping teeth

Should Your Top Teeth Overlap Your Bottom Teeth?

We’ve all had an entire lifetime to become accustomed to the way our teeth feel every single day. But you may have wondered if your teeth are actually fitting together properly? Should your top teeth overlap your bottom teeth? Or are you just accustomed to the feeling of an incorrect bite?

Should top teeth sit in front of bottom teeth?

The short answer is yes. Your top teeth should sit in front of your bottom teeth.

This allows the top molars to join together correctly with your bottom molars, and enables your teeth to cut through your food when you chew it.

But how much of an overlap should there be?

How do you know if your top teeth are overlapping your bottom teeth too much?

Retrognathism

Retrognathism (also known as Class 2 Malocclusion) is more commonly referred to as an overbite.

An overbite is when the upper jaw or teeth severely overlap the bottom jaw or teeth.

Photo from Smileworks Liverpool

Specifically, an overlap of between 1 and 2 millimetres is considered to be normal, which means anything from a 3 millimetre overlap and beyond would be considered to be some form of an overbite.

How many people have an overbite?

It is estimated that around 70% of the population has some degree of an overbite.

This could range from a very minor overbite through to a severe overbite where the lower front teeth touch the palate of the mouth.

Overbite vs Overjet

An Overbite is frequently confused with a similar condition called an Overjet.

An overbite refers to the top teeth biting too far down over the bottom teeth, whereas an overjet is considered when the teeth or jaw sits forward of the lower front teeth or jaw creating a “buck tooth” appearance.

Overbite vs Overjet diagram
Diagram showing overbite vs Overjet

Overbite and overjet are often confused because they can present a similar visual appearance, and it’s also possible for a patient to have both and overbite and an overjet simultaneously.

What is the impact of an overbite?

The implications of an overbite are more than just cosmetic.

Beyond potential self-esteem issues, people who have an overbite can also experience a range of other health issues such as:

Jaw pain

When teeth are sitting in the wrong position, this will typically have a corresponding impact on the position of the jaw.

The short answer is yes. Your top teeth should sit in front of your bottom teeth.

This in turn can cause pain and discomfort because the jaw is being forced to move in a way that it is not designed for.

Oral health problems

When teeth sit in an incorrect position they have the potential to strike each other in ways which can damage the teeth and gums. An overbite or deep bite can cause trauma to the upper palate.

Likewise a deep bite may lead to increased wear on the edges of teeth.

This can impact the tooth enamel and damage gum tissue which can all ultimately lead to pain and tooth loss.

Speech problems

The position of our teeth plays a critical role in our ability to speak.

This is why people who have a severe overjet or overbite can often experience some kind of a speech impediment at the same time.

Sleep apnoea

The position of the teeth and jaw are all factors when we sleep, particularly if you like to sleep on your back.

People who have an overbite are often more prone to experiencing sleeping issues such as sleep apnoea, which in turn makes it difficult for them to get regular, high quality sleep.

How is an overbite or overjet corrected?

Now that we understand that an overbite and overjet has the potential to be a serious issue, how do we fix it?

In most cases it is simple to correct using orthodontic treatment, and it’s possible to correct it using regular braces, incognito braces, and even Invisalign® aligners so there are plenty of treatment options to consider.

If an overbite or overjet is especially severe the orthodontist may identify that the cause is actually skeletal in nature.

If this is the case then the overbite or overjet is caused by the position of the jaw itself, rather than the position of the teeth within the jaw.

These cases are less common but when they do occur the treatment can require surgery to correct the position of the jaw itself.

Either way it’s best not to attempt to self-diagnose your issue.

Your orthodontist will make an assessment of the best way to proceed with your treatment to get the best results, and will present the options for you to consider.

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