Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Skip to main content

For a strong, straight smile, your upper and lower jaws should evenly meet. Correctly aligned teeth ensure a proper bite and healthier mouth, but teeth don’t always grow straight.

There are many different treatable orthodontic conditions – two of the most common are underbites and overbites. Overbites and underbites are two types of misaligned bites clinically known as malocclusions, which can impact your daily life and alter how you breathe, eat, and swallow.

Knowing whether you have an overbite vs. underbite can help you have discussions with your dentist on how best to correct your condition. So, open wide and let’s discover the differences!

What Does an Overbite or Underbite Look Like?

Did you know it’s normal for your smile to have a small overbite? In fact, your bite requires a 1-2 mm gap with your front teeth fitting just over your bottom teeth. However, when there is an extended, large overlap of the front top and bottom teeth, this is an overbite. It’s often referred to as “buck teeth” or a “deep bite.”

The opposite is an underbite. With this, the upper front teeth come down behind the bottom front teeth. This makes the lower jaw appear to jut out when the mouth is closed. These malocclusions are two of the most common reasons people seek orthodontic treatment.

What Causes an Overbite and Underbite?

Overbites and underbites are caused by several factors including: overcrowding of teeth, childhood habits like thumb-sucking and prolonged pacifier use, injuries to the mouth or jaws, or bad oral habits. Genetics, which can play a large part in the way your jawbone develops, also impact the formation of these malocclusions.

In most cases, the signs and symptoms are visually self-evident. How do your teeth meet when you press them together? When your mouth is closed, does your chin protrude outward? Apart from these visual concerns, potential complications include:

  • Discomfort or pain while eating
  • Severe headaches
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Sleep apnea
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders

Which is worse, an overbite or underbite?

In general, underbites can lead to more serious consequences, but neither condition should be ignored. If left untreated, an overbite or underbite can get worse. However, both have many correction methods that are very effective, especially caught early on with children. A consult with your Smile dentist or orthodontist is the best way to get a clear understanding of your bite alignment.