What is an Overbite, Underbite, Crossbite and how are they corrected?

  Amazing Smiles   Estimate Reading Time: 6 minutes

What is malocclusion?

Malocclusion occurs when your jaw and teeth are misaligned.

Diagnoses and treatment during childhood or teenage years are easier to perform since bone growth is still developing.

Malocclusion can be categorised as follows:

  • Overbites
  • Crossbites
  • Underbites
  • Open bites

The causes of such issues vary. Such factors include:

  • Hereditary / Genetic condition
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Abnormal growth of adult teeth or jawbone
  • Thumb sucking or excessive pacifier use
  • Tongue Posture
  • Injury
  • Incorrect use of the oral appliance
  • Mouth Tumor
  • Mouth breathing conditions such as chronic nasal obstruction or enlarged tonsils

If left untreated, a severe malocclusion can lead to oral health complications and challenges. These include:

  • Functional issues for chewing foods
  • Tooth Decay and tooth damage due to bite issues
  • Speech impediments
  • Jaw Muscle Stress – Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ)
  • Appearance issues
  • Breathing issues
  • Gum Disease

Below we help to distinguish the differences between the bite disorders.

What is an Overbite?

Overbite malocclusion
Overbite Malocclusion

An overbite is determined when your top front teeth extend further and overlap the bottom front teeth. Slight overbites are pretty standard.

Overlapping teeth results in fewer lower teeth showing, damaging the lower teeth. The average slight overbite is 2-4mm. An overlap of anything more than this is considered an excessive overbite.

Consequently, this can also affect the gum area on the back of your upper central incisors.

There are two different types of the overbite; a skeletal overbite and a dental overbite.

  1. Skeletal Overbites occur from improper jawbone development, causing the teeth and jaw to grow incorrectly. Due to the incorrect jaw development, the upper rows of teeth push forward over the smaller bottom jaw.
  2. Dental Overbites occur when teeth incorrectly align, and teeth are in the wrong position.

Overbites are the most common dental disorder in children.

What is an Open bite?

Openbite dental occlusion
Openbite dental occlusion

An Open Bite is a condition when the upper and lower front teeth slant outwards and do not touch when the mouth is closed. Open Bites can be affected by jawbone shape or external habits such as finger sucking during early childhood. Open Bites are considered a rare form of malocclusion (misalignment).

There are two different including:

  1. Individuals have an Anterior Open Bite when the front upper and lower teeth slant outward. Thus, the front and lower teeth do not touch when closed.
  2. Posterior Open Bites are recognised when an Open Bite condition appears at the back of the mouth.

Frontal Open Bites are more common among the two.

Individuals with Open bite disorder may have difficulties chewing and biting down on food. Proper pronunciation while speaking may also be affected.

If you have issues with the alignment with an Open Bite, orthodontic correction is your best course of treatment.

  1. Anterior Open Bite – most commonly occurs when the front teeth (incisors) of the upper and lower jaw do not overlap.
  2. Posterior Open Bite – identified in cases where the back teeth, including the molars and premolars, do not close when biting down. A normal bite is when the back teeth of the upper jaw are slightly outside the bottom teeth of the lower jaw when biting down.

What is an Underbite?

Underbite misalignment of the jaw
Underbite misalignment of the jaw

An underbite is where your lower teeth extend in front of the upper teeth. In extreme cases, this is visually noticeable when the bottom jaw protrudes further than the upper jaw.

Clinically called a prognathism, this form of misalignment can often cause damage to the upper front teeth. Otherwise referred to as Class III malocclusion, this can cause discomfort and mouth and face pain.

What is a Crossbite?

Anterior crossbite malocclusion
Anterior crossbite malocclusion

A ‘Crossbite’ is a Malocclusion condition that refers to teeth alignment whereby several or all teeth do not close correctly.

Crossbites can occur in the front teeth, known as anterior crossbite, or in the back teeth, called a posterior crossbite.

Due to misalignment, tooth chipping and damage or gum problems are more prominent in patients with a severe crossbite.

Overbite, Crossbite, Underbite Treatment

There are several options available to patients. These vary as each case differs. Treatment plans and options are discussed extensively with each patient.

Early detection and orthodontic dental treatment are advised for children and teenagers as their bones are still developing. Early intervention also helps prevent future problems and complications. Suggested treatment options may include:

  • Oral appliances/palette expanders
  • Traditional braces or Invisalign – to correct bite issues, it is often recommended for patients to wear elastics.
  • Tooth Extraction is a potential treatment for overcrowded teeth since it allows proper growth of permanent teeth.
  • Cosmetic Dentists may refer Patients to an oral surgeon or orthodontist expert for extreme Overbite, Crossbite, and Underbite cases.

If you’ve ever wondered why people have elastic bands while wearing braces, the rubber bands help to align your bite. They are an essential and crucial component in correct orthodontic treatment.

When applied correctly, elastic bands help to apply constant pressure to guide teeth and the jaw to their correct positions. Bite correction during orthodontic treatment is considered the longest and most challenging part of treatment.

Dentists may combine different cosmetic dental treatments to achieve optimum aesthetic results.


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