How long does an overbite take to fix?

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Table of Contents

  1. Treatment Timeline
  2. Progression Steps
  3. Treatment Completion
  4. Is It Worthwhile?
  5. References

It takes years to develop a perfect smile. Baby teeth erupt, they fall out, and adult teeth take their place. Adult teeth aren't really set until age 16 or later.

But what happens if those teeth don't match up perfectly? Unfortunately, that's common.

The term overbite describes upper teeth that shoot too far out over their lower counterparts. Researchers say about 8 percent of Americans have this problem.

Fixing an overbite takes time. Choose braces, and you're likely to wear them for years. Opt for aligners, and you can cut treatment time down to mere months. But aligners aren't right for all overbite cases.

The exact treatment timeframe will depend on the severity of your overbite. Your orthodontist or your aligner treatment team will advise you on the timeline you can expect at the outset of treatment.

How long does treatment last?

An overbite is a structural problem. Either the upper jaw is too long, or the lower jaw is too short. Treatment lengthens the shorter version, reshapes the longer part, or both. Treatment times extend depending on problem severity.

Researchers say, for example, that some people need intense treatment that blends both surgery and braces. Based on a 2017 study, that treatment can take:

  • 14.6 months if people have surgery to amend jaw size first, before braces.
  • 22 months if people have braces before surgery.

Obviously, every mouth is different. Some people with a mild overbite need just a nudge in the right direction, and they can skip surgical interventions. Their treatment timeframes shorten as a result. They just don't need as much help.

But the decisions you make during treatment with braces can make treatment timelines extend, no matter how much help your smile might need.

During braces treatment, you meet with your orthodontist regularly for:

Assessment
The orthodontist looks at your teeth and braces to determine if everything is moving according to plan.
Tightening
Most braces relay on expert tightening. Wires get shorter to move teeth more, while guided by an orthodontist.
Repairs
Brackets that slip and slide can't pull on your teeth. New ones are sometimes required.

Skip an appointment, and you will pay the price. Researchers say missing more than two appointments adds almost a year to your treatment timeframe.

Aligners offer a faster route to overbite correction. Doctor-supervised, at-home aligners let you skip in-person appointments, so your treatment always stays on track. Wear the trays as directed, and use special vibrating tools to speed bone remodeling, and the process is complete in just a few months.

Treatment times can vary dramatically from mouth to mouth, so don't rely on articles like this one to plot your future. But know that braces often take longer than aligners, and know that your choices can ensure the process is complete as quickly as possible.

An overbite alters the relationship between upper and lower jaws, and fixing the problem with braces can take years, but aligners can do the job in a shorter time frame.

A step-by-step progression.

Why does treatment take so long? The answer varies from person to person. But in general, doctors must complete many steps to align teeth and amend an overbite problem.

Experts say traditional overbite correction involves:

Alignment
Brackets affix to teeth, and wires connect them. As the wires shorten, teeth move into new positions.
Overbite Reduction
Headgear, rubber bands, or both pull jaws into new positions. These devices attach to braces that stay in place.
Space Reduction
Close monitoring ensures that jaws don't move too much, and teeth fit together in perfect alignment.
Aligners are a little different. Choose this therapy, and your treatment follows one of two paths.
Braces First
Headgear and rubber bands attach to braces to adjust the overbite. With that step completed, braces come off. Aligner therapy pushes your teeth into their final spots.
Aligners Only
If your overbite is small, you may only need aligner therapy. Each week or so, new trays replace the old trays. In time, with small adjustments, your teeth take up new positions.

When your work is complete, your teeth should overlap in perfect harmony. But sometimes, the treatment doesn't work as planned.

For example, researchers say some overbite adjustments with braces lead to poor smile aesthetics. The smile broadens, so too many teeth appear when you smile. Everything should look fine and ideal, but something looks slightly altered or wrong.

You're not forced to live with a smile you don't love. If braces adjusted the overbite but left your smile less than ideal, aligner treatment may help. A subtle adjustment to a few key teeth could give you the smile you’ve been looking for.

When is treatment complete?

Most people measure treatment duration by the time they wear the devices. When they're done wearing braces or aligners, their work is complete. The reality is more complex.

Braces and aligners work by pushing your teeth into new spots. The ligaments attached to your jaw bend and stretch in time, and new bone is built. When the devices are removed and pressure eases, teeth can drift back into old positions.

It takes time for teeth to remain in the right spot. Ligaments must strengthen and straighten rather than stretching due to pressure. Release the pressure too early, and teeth can just move back into their old positions.

Retainers remind your teeth to stay where they are newly placed. Retainers can be clear like aligners, or they can be wire-and-plastic devices that slip over your teeth. Some retainers are even permanently bonded to bottom teeth.

In general, you must wear your retainers full-time for about six months after braces or aligner removal, experts say. Then, you should wear them at night. That continues for years, if not indefinitely.

Is this hard work worthwhile?

You have plenty of things to do and many demands on your time. It's reasonable to wonder if you should worry about your overbite.

Remember that an overbite can cause serious health problems due to:

Poor Hygiene
If your overbite is accompanied by crooked teeth, you may struggle to brush and floss efficiently.
Mouth Sores
In severe cases, lower teeth can hit your upper palate. When lesions form, they can get infected.
Strained Muscles
It's difficult to bite and chew with misaligned teeth. Sore muscles can lead to headaches.

If your doctor recommends help for your overbite, it's best to listen. You're protecting your health as well as your appearance.

Rest assured that correcting your overbite doesn’t usually involve an extensive time commitment. Get an assessment of the severity of your overbite. If it’s mild to moderate, you may be able to have it fixed in a matter of months with at-home aligners. If it’s more severe, your treatment timeline may extend into years.

References.

Prevalence and Distribution of Selected Occlusal Characteristics in the U.S. Population, 1988-1991. (February 1996). Journal of Dental Research.

Can a Surgery-First Orthognathic Approach Reduce the Total Treatment Time? (April 2017). International Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Factors Influencing Orthodontic Treatment Time for Non-Surgical Class III Malocclusion. (September 2016). Journal of Applied Oral Science.

Overbite. (August 2019). Fixed Orthodontic Appliances.

Does Overbite Reduction Affect Smile Esthetics? (July 2019). The Angle Orthodontist.

How Long Do I Need to Wear My Retainer for After Braces? (April 2018). Canadian Association of Orthodontists.

You Have to Wear Your Retainer! (December 2015). Medium.

Frequently Asked Questions. Byte.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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