Unlike its sister condition (overbite), overjet refers to a horizontal protrusion of the front teeth rather than a vertical one. While it rarely poses any serious risk to a person’s health, many people choose to pursue corrective treatment in order to prevent dental complications down the road, or simply feel more comfortable with their smile.
Nowadays there are more options than ever for adults seeking to correct bite issues quickly, discreetly, and without breaking the bank. With all this in mind, let’s get into the details of what overjet is, what causes it, and the most effective ways to correct it.
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What is Overjet?
Overjet is a type of malocclusion that occurs when the upper teeth erupt at a different angle than the lower teeth, growing outward rather than in parallel with the lower arch. Although there is no unanimous agreement on exactly how much horizontal projection is cause for concern, 1-3 mm is generally considered to be within the range of a normal bite.
Overjet is regularly confused with overbite, a malocclusion that causes the upper teeth to vertically overlap the lower teeth. The reason for this confusion is sound: these conditions commonly exist alongside one another. If you have an overjet, it’s very possible that you have some degree of overbite (and/or some other type of misalignment, such as teeth crowding or spacing) as well.
All that said, it can be difficult to define the exact nature and severity of a bite issue on your own. If you’re unsure exactly what condition(s) you’re dealing with, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a dentist before shopping around for treatment options so you can go into this process fully informed!
What Causes Overjet?
Overjet is often inherited, as genetics play a large role in the development of one’s teeth and jaw. However, it can also result from habits such as thumbsucking, tongue thrusting, or use of a pacifier. If performed too late in a child’s physical development, these behaviors can significantly impact the way the jaw forms and the angle at which the teeth erupt.
Teeth crowding can also contribute to the development of overjet. When there is not enough space in the upper jaw for one’s teeth to grow in at a normal angle, the front teeth may be forced outward to make room for the rest. This may occur when the adult teeth grow in too soon, or are simply disproportionately large compared to the size of the jaw.
Is It a Medical Issue?
It depends. While overjet is quite common and often unnecessary to correct, certain cases result in more serious complications down the road.
Since overjet prevents full contact between the upper and lower arches when biting down, excessive stress is placed on the teeth that are properly aligned. This stress erodes the enamel of the aligned teeth more quickly and increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease down the line. On the flipside, the protruding teeth in the upper arch are also made more vulnerable, as their distance from the corresponding lower teeth leaves them at higher risk of being cracked or damaged on accident.
In addition to risk of dental damage, overjet is also associated with jaw pain, headaches, and speech disorders, although these types of symptoms typically only emerge in severe cases. If you have a mild overjet, there’s no reason to assume that your teeth or overall health are at risk — but if it’s causing you physical discomfort or preventing you from feeling totally happy with your smile, corrective treatment may be the right route for you.
Top 4 Ways to Correct Overjet
If you’ve decided as an adult that it’s time to consider correcting your overjet, don’t fret! No matter what you’ve heard, it’s possible to treat bite issues at any age, whether it was caused by thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, or genetics. In any case, you’ll need to work with a dentist to determine the best treatment method for your unique teeth.
With all this in mind, let’s discuss the 4 best ways to correct overjet:
Traditional braces are quite effective at treating many types of overjet. In addition to dental correction, braces can also achieve a degree of skeletal realignment when paired with elastics and other specialized appliances. The main downside of braces is their visibility, since most adults favor treatment options that are less conspicuous. However, if this is not a concern for you, braces are an excellent solution, often working more quickly than other correction methods.
In some cases, tooth extraction may be used in conjunction with braces to help deal with overcrowded teeth. When teeth are removed, this allows the jaw to relax into a more natural position, after which braces can work to move the teeth into alignment. Treatment with braces typically ranges 18-30 months, with costs averaging $3,000-$7,000.
Thinking about getting braces? Check out our guide to treating overjet with braces, which covers different types of braces, costs and other important considerations in greater detail.
Known for having pioneered the world’s first clear, removable teeth aligners, Invisalign is another viable treatment option for many cases of adult overjet. Over the years, this technology has evolved to be able to produce results quite similar to traditional braces.
Like braces, Invisalign treatment can be paired with tooth extraction and additional dental appliances to help correct bite issues. However, unlike braces, Invisalign can be provided by a standard dentist (rather than an orthodontist), so there’s a good chance your treatment can be administered at the same place you go to get your teeth cleaned.
Of course, the most notable differences between these treatment methods is that Invisalign is 1) removable, and 2) much more discreet than traditional braces. Invisalign clear aligner trays are able to shift your teeth and realign your bite about equally as quickly as braces, and for approximately the same price (between $3,500-$8,000). To learn more about treating overjet with Invisalign, check out our comprehensive guide.
Considering Invisalign? Read our guide to treating overjet with Invisalign, which covers options, costs and other important considerations in greater detail.
3) Home Teeth Aligners
While Invisalign remains the best-known option for removable teeth aligners, there are many others available today. In the past few years, a number of online companies like Smile Direct Club have entered the industry to provide a more affordable option for adults seeking to straighten their teeth or correct minor bite issues from home.
Similar to the Invisalign treatment process, you’ll receive a set of clear, removable aligners customized to your teeth by a dental professional — but unlike Invisalign, your care will be handled entirely remotely and not require any trips to the dentist’s office.
Home alignment products tend to be significantly less expensive than braces or Invisalign, with an average cost of between $1,800-$2,000. The companies that sell home aligners typically provide an opportunity to review your expected results before purchasing a full course of treatment, so you’ll know exactly what to expect before moving forward. All in all, if you have a mild case of overjet, home teeth alignment may be a perfectly viable option for you.
To learn more, we encourage you to read our review of the top 5 home teeth aligners.
Interested in learning more about at-home teeth aligners? Vist our guide to treating overjet with at-home aligners, which covers options, costs and other important considerations in greater detail.
4) Corrective Jaw Surgery
Jaw surgery should be reserved for cases of overjet in which the patient also has a severe skeletal overbite. In these cases, the lower jaw often appears recessed (or set back) from the upper jaw, resulting in an uneven facial profile that standard orthodontic appliances cannot always correct. Orthognathic surgery can work to shift one or both of the jaws into the desired position for a more significant adjustment to one’s bite and facial profile.
This is a pretty significant form of surgery. In addition to being quite expensive, it can also take a while to recover from. Fortunately, most cases of overjet don’t require surgical intervention, and can be effectively handled using one of the options discussed above. If you have a very severe overjet, an orthodontist can help you determine if surgery is warranted.
If you’ve ended up down the Google rabbithole, you may be feeling intimidated by all the technical jargon around bite issues, or the prospect of pursuing corrective treatment as an adult — but don’t let the cynics get you down. In reality, overjet is quite common, often harmless, and doesn’t make you any less wonderful.
That said, if your overjet causes you physical discomfort or prevents you from living a full and happy life in any way, bite correction is totally possible and worth pursuing. Just make sure you choose a physician who’s dedicated to finding the treatment option that best reflects your top priorities, whether they’re aesthetic, budgetary, time-sensitive or otherwise. We hope this guide provided you with some helpful insight for your future dental decisions!