Overbite, Underbite, and Crossbite… What Do These Bite Disorders Mean?

Posted on November 27, 2019

Overbites, underbites and crossbites are all different types of malocclusion or bite disorders. Most of the time these dental disorders are caused by genetics but there can also be other underlying causes. Here are the differences between each bite disorder, and the treatment options you can begin researching to correct alignment issues.


An underbite is a misalignment of the lower jaw that causes your lower teeth to protrude outward further than your top teeth. Ideally, your teeth should fit together with your top teeth just slightly overlapping your bottom teeth. Besides being genetic, this type of bite problem can also be caused by tongue thrusting, mouth breathing, or childhood behaviors such as thumb sucking, using a pacifier or bottle feeding beyond infant years. 

Underbite Complications

Complications due to this type of malocclusion can range from mild to severe depending on the degree of the misalignment. It can cause chronic jaw pain or TMJ disorder, which can cause locking, popping or clicking of your jaw. TMJ disorder can also lead to chronic headaches, earaches, toothaches, speech problems, difficulties when chewing, and chronic mouth breathing.

Correcting an Underbite

There are different options for crossbite treatment depending on the severity of your condition. If you have crowding of your lower anterior teeth, sometimes removing one of those teeth and then straightening with braces will give you the proper alignment. In more severe cases, surgery done by an oral surgeon in conjunction with orthodontics may be the only way to correct this malocclusion. We recommend asking your orthodontist what the best treatment options are for your particular case.


An overbite, also referred to as a “deep bite” is when the top teeth protrude out farther than the lower teeth. This is often referred to as having “buck teeth”. Just like underbites, this can be caused by genetics, prolonged pacifier and bottle use beyond infant years, and thumb sucking. Teens and adults can also develop overbites by excessively chewing on writing utensils or nail biting.

Overbite Complications

Overbites can range in severity. It is normal for one to have a slight overbite of about 3-5 mm. However, when an overbite is more extreme, it can alter your entire facial structure and begin causing more serious issues similar to those of a severe underbite, (jaw pain, sleep apnea, headaches, speech impediments, etc.).

Correcting an Overbite

The most common type of treatment for an overbite is orthodontics. Sometimes extracting certain teeth is necessary, but at Cardinal Orthodontics in St. Louis, we do our best to avoid removing teeth unless it is absolutely necessary. Only in extreme cases is surgery recommended to correct this condition.


A crossbite is when your top and bottom teeth do not come together or bite in the correct position. This can be caused by tooth position, jaw position, or a combination of both. There are generally two types of crossbites.

  1. A posterior crossbite – When your front teeth sit inside of your lower teeth on one or both sides when you bite down.
  2. An anterior crossbite – When your top front teeth sit behind your lower teeth when you bite down. This is similar to an underbite but not the same.

Crossbite Complications

When crossbites are left untreated, they can lead to loss of teeth due to gum recession, jaw pain, headaches, and teeth grinding. They can also negatively affect the growth of someone’s jaw and facial structure, so it’s important to treat this bite disorder as soon as it’s been detected.

Correcting a Crossbite

Treating a crossbite usually starts with the first phase of orthodontic treatment to fix the bite issue and expand the jaw. In some cases, palatal expanders are needed to help with expansion, but at Cardinal Orthodontics our high-tech brackets and wires help give us the expansion we need to align the teeth properly. Surgery may or may not be needed depending on the severity of the case.

Click here to learn more about crossbites on the American Associates of Orthodontics’ (AAO) website.

Treating Overbites, Underbites, and Crossbites at Cardinal Orthodontics

At Cardinal Orthodontics, we have treated patients with a wide variety of bite disorders with both braces and Invisalign.

Call our office today to receive a FREE consultation and learn about the severity of your bite. We can help get you on the right track to a beautiful and healthy smile! 314-962-6242

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