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Open Bite, Overbite, & Crossbite

Bite basics: The difference between open bite, overbite, and crossbite

Have you been told that you have a “bad” bite? Open bites, overbites, and crossbites are all different types of malocclusions (the dental term for bite disorders). When your teeth and jaw are not properly aligned, it can affect how you eat, breathe, talk, and even your appearance. Your teeth may also become crooked and wear unevenly over time.

While most people experience some degree of malocclusion, some will need corrective measures to resolve the issue – and that’s where Shawano Orthodontics comes in. Here’s everything you need to know about open bites, overbites, and crossbites, as well as how our expert orthodontic team can help get your bite back on track.

Open bite

In a proper bite, your upper and lower teeth should connect all the way across, with upper teeth overlapping the lower teeth slightly when your mouth is fully closed.

An open bite is when your upper and lower teeth don’t touch each other, leaving an open space between them – even when your jaw is completely shut. Open bite can occur in the front or back of your mouth, although a frontal open bite is far more common. 

The most noticeable sign of open bite is an inability to close your mouth entirely. Other signs include difficulty with chewing or swallowing, speech issues (such as lisping), pain when biting, and a less-pronounced chin.

Open bite can be caused by a tooth problem, a jaw problem (including a poor skeletal relationship between the upper and lower jaw), or a combination of both. Other causes include tongue thrusting (when a person pushes their tongue between their teeth while speaking or swallowing), habitual thumb or pacifier sucking, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a condition that affects the joint connecting your jawbone to your skull.

How we fix it

The best and most common treatment for open bite is orthodontics – specifically, braces or Invisalign® clear aligners. Both of these can correct open bite by gently pushing teeth into their proper position over time. Your Shawano orthodontist will examine your mouth and explain both treatment options to you, so you can pick the one that best meets your needs and lifestyle.

For severe cases of open bite, oral surgery might be necessary. This is rare, and only for complex cases that cannot be treated by orthodontic intervention alone. Your Shawano orthodontist will refer you to an oral surgeon if this applies to you.


Often referred to as “buck teeth,” an overbite is when your front upper teeth protrude out farther than your lower teeth. According to the American Dental Association, nearly 70 percent of children show signs of having an overbite.

It’s normal to have a slight overbite of about 3-5 millimeters. However, when an overbite is more severe, it can cause major issues including jaw pain, lockjaw, headaches, speech impediments, sleep apnea, and more. Severe overbite can also alter your facial structure over time.

The most common cause of an overbite is the shape and/or size of your jaw or teeth. If your mouth does not have enough room, an overbite allows your teeth to crowd each other and grow in crooked. If your jaw area is too large, your teeth may grow too far apart. 

For children, habits like thumb and pacifier sucking or prolonged use of a bottle or sippy cup continuously push their tongue against the back of their teeth, can cause an overbite over time. In teens and adults, excessive nail biting or chewing objects (such as pens or pencils) often have a similar result. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching can cause overbite as well.

How we fix it

Overbite treatment is different for children and adults. For kids, the removal of baby teeth can help make room for permanent teeth as they come in. A palatal expander can also be used to create additional room in the palate and jaw that allows permanent teeth to properly align. 

Braces and Invisalign clear aligners, which slowly move teeth into correct alignment, are viable treatment options for both children and adults. Adults with severe overbite may need to have some permanent teeth removed or oral surgery to correct their jaw alignment. Your Shawano orthodontist will provide you with a personalized treatment plan.


Normally, your upper teeth are wider and sit on the outside of your lower teeth. A crossbite is when the lower teeth in the front or back of your mouth fit over your upper teeth instead. Crossbite can affect a single tooth or groups of teeth – for example, one tooth may be tucked behind another, or you may have several teeth that don’t touch properly. 

There are numerous reasons why a person may develop crossbite, including missing teeth, early baby tooth loss that causes other teeth to shift, and baby teeth that don’t fall out. Your jaw may be too small to fit all your teeth, or your teeth may be too large to align properly on their own. Thumb and pacifier sucking, tongue thrusting, and even genetics can also cause crossbite.

If left untreated, crossbite can lead to uneven jaw growth, unbalanced facial features, irregular tooth wear, loose teeth, receding gums, and other negative outcomes.

How we fix it

It’s best to treat a crossbite in childhood when the jaw and face are still growing. However, adults can have crossbite successfully treated as well. 

For children, your Shawano orthodontist may use a palatal expander or braces – perhaps even both at the same time – to treat crossbite and broaden the upper teeth and jaw. For teens and adults, crossbite can be treated with braces or Invisalign clear aligners. In rare cases, some patients may also require jaw surgery.

Bring your bite issues to us

Shawano Orthodontics is here to guide you through your treatment journey and give you a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime. It all begins with a free consultation that includes:

  • One-on-one time with a doctor
  • Personalized treatment plan
  • Digital X-rays
  • iTero® 3D model of your teeth and gums
  • Financial consultation

The sooner we can treat your bite problem, the better chance we have to guide the growth of your facial and jaw bones and provide adequate space for your permanent teeth. We offer orthodontic treatment for all ages, beginning at age seven.

So, what are you waiting for? Schedule your free consultation today!