Dr. Greg Jorgensen
(505) 891-9440
1401 Barbara Loop SE
Rio Rancho, NM 87124

The Jorgensen Orthodontics Blog

What Does an Ideal Bite Look Like?

Posted by Dr. Jorgensen on July 21st, 2015

Ideal-FrontMany patients are referred to the orthodontist by their dentist because their “bite is off.” Often when they arrive in my office however, they are confused because they are already happy with the appearance of their smile. What does an ideal bite really look like? The best way to describe a healthy bite it is by looking at it from three different views. Let’s start from the front.

The front view is what patients first see when they look in the mirror. Ideally, the edges of the upper front teeth should parallel the top of the lower lip. If the upper teeth are too long, the patient will show too much gum tissue when they smile. If they are too short, they won’t show enough enamel when they smile and they will look prematurely old or toothless. With teeth closed together, about one half to two thirds of the length of the bottom teeth should be visible. If the upper incisors cover too much of the lower teeth, this is called a deep bite. If the upper teeth do not overlap the lower ones enough, then you have an open bite. In an ideal bite, the upper arch is slightly wider than the lower. If the upper arch is too narrow (or too wide) such that the teeth “cross over” the lower ones in either direction, the condition is called a crossbite. Another important relationship of the upper and lower arches with each other and with the face is the position of the midlines (the line between the central incisors). The upper midline should line up with the middle of the upper lip. The lower midline should line up with the top one.

Ideal-OcclusalThe second view that most patients look at is the top of the bottom set of teeth (looking down on them in a mirror). From this view, all of the teeth should be aligned in a flowing curve shaped like the famous St. Louis Arch. They should all be touching each other with no overlapping or spacing between them. The upper arch is harder for patients to see, but it should also be well aligned with no spaces or overlapping.

The most difficult view for patients to see is the one from the side. The best way to describe the ideal relationship from this perspective is a set of matching gears. The cusps or pointed ends of the top teeth should fit perfectly between two teeth in the bottom. The backs of the upper front teeth should rest in gentle contact with the fronts of the lower ones. This means that the upper teeth are in front of the lowers when the bite is closed. The edges of the upper teeth should not bite directly on the edges of the lower incisors or behind them (known as an underbite). Neither should the upper teeth stick out too far in front of the lower ones so that there is no contact. This is what is commonly referred to as an “overbite.”

Ideal-SideWhen I evaluate a bite, I look at the patient from the front to get a general idea of where their teeth are positioned between their lips. Are they too long, too short, or just the right length? Are they aligned in a nice curve that parallels the lower lip? Is the bite open, too deep, or overlapping just the right amount? Is the upper arch slightly wider than the lower and do the midlines correspond? From the top (or occlusal) view, are the teeth well aligned and resting next to each other without spaces or overlapping? Do the back teeth mesh together like gears and do the top front teeth lie correctly against the front of the lower ones? If any of these relationships are not as described, there are probably issues with the size, shape, or position of the teeth or jaws that can and should be addressed through orthodontic treatment.

NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the Westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog is for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 30,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.

126 comments so far in response to “What Does an Ideal Bite Look Like?”

  1. Jordan says:

    Hi Dr. Jorgensen

    I have had braces for 11 months and I am nearing where my orthodontist will take them off. But my teeth feel unaligned and I can’t chew nor can I close my lips. Please help me my doctor just said that their fine.

    • If they are not “fine” in your mind, you have two options: 1) have another discussion with your orthodontist as express your concerns, and 2) get a second opinion from another doctor to see if your feelings are warranted. I would not let him take the braces off until you have done both.

  2. Susie Yue says:

    Hi Dr.Jorgensen. I just removed my braces 2 months ago. I noticed that my upper teeth are hardly visiable now. Prior to braces, I always had a good smile with 8 upper teeth almost fully visiable. Now when I relax or talk, my lower teeth show much more than my upper. My upper teeth had slight flare before and now they curve in a little. I am not sure why this happened. Do you think this has anything to do with bites? Do I need to fix my bite to get my smile back?

    • I would discuss your concerns with your orthodontist. He should have before and after pictures that you can discuss together. If he didn’t take “after” pictures, have him take some, print them out, and they you show him on the picture what is bothering you. Good luck!

    • Nat says:

      Omg sue ive the same problem. How did u get it fix? I am soo depress.

      Hi Dr jorgensen, i just remove my braces 2 days ago and i am thinking re do all over again. Will i br able to have a fuller normal smile again with invisalign?
      Thankss for your advice

      • As I’ve answered to many patients who feel just like you, every mouth is different. Some people look great with all 32 teeth. Some however just don’t have room for all of them. In fact, they would look silly because the teeth stick out, their lips can’t close, and their gums start to recede. As much as we’d all love to have broad, full smiles like models in magazines, many times we don’t have the bone structure, the facial features, or the tooth shapes to pull it off. The reason orthodontists require so much training is that they must learn how to evaluate all of the variables that make up your smile, not just the alignment of the front teeth. If you are not satisfied with your outcome, please have a formal consultation with your orthodontist and have him explain why your treatment plan was chosen for you. With many of my patients, I have no real choice on how many teeth will fit in the mouth. There is only so much bone. Good luck!

  3. Chris Wineland says:

    Dr. Jorgensen,
    I wore my braces for 18 months when my doctor encouraged me to take my braces off. March 2018. I did not want to remove my braces as I did not feel like my teeth were aligned properly, but he insisted to remove my brace and said that my teeth would fall into place. I wore my retainers faithfully. My teeth did move and I began to have extreme pain on my right central incisor and my right lower lateral incisor as the lower incisor is hitting the the back edge side of the upper central incisor. Also, the canines on the left side grind against each other when I eat. I have now worn 5 trays of Invisalign and the problem is worse. My lower right lateral tooth is chipping and I still have pain. He has requested 5 more trays, but the end result will have none of my teeth touching each from the first premolar on left to right first premolar. Looking straight on the smile looks okay, but if you were to look under the upper teeth, there will be a gap or space between the lower and upper teeth. Would you consider this a proper bite?
    I truly need advice before I agree to this next treatment plan.
    Thank you for your time and advice.

    • I’m sorry, but I can’t comment on your bite specifically. What you are describing doesn’t sound right, but I haven’t seen you, your previous records, or know all the facts. If you don’t think your orthodontist is on the right track, I would recommend a second opinion. Not that your first orthodontist is wrong, it just sometimes helps to have a second set of eyes look at the situation. We all have different training and experience. Good luck!

  4. Vikki corr says:

    Hi wondering if you can help me please. I’m 52 had my fixed braces on for 2 months to straighten my bottom teeth but he as put braces on my top teeth to pull a slightly chipped tooth down. But now my front right tooth is as turned overlapping the chipped tooth at side of it. Iv told him but he says it’s not and it definitely is and same with one at the bottom but not as bad. And now when I bite my teeth don’t meet up. I said to him is it because my jaw sits back more at the bottom and should it have come forward first to get my bite better? He said say all the time there fine but I know their not. Please help I’m so worried Iv saved for years to have nice teeth.

  5. Sasha says:

    Hi Dr. Jorgensen,
    I have had my braces on for 1 year and 8 months. I am very happy with my results and my bite seems to be pretty perfect. I am happy with all of my other teeth too, however, my front upper two teeth seem to slightly jut out more than the other teeth. The other teeth are all in a line but not the two front teeth. It is not noticable, just something I can feel when I run my tongue along it. Is this normal?

    • The results we can obtain in individual patients differ like finger prints. If you are not happy with the position of your front teeth, please discuss it with your orthodontist BEFORE your braces come off. Good luck!

  6. james says:

    Hi Dr. Jorgensen,

    I’ve had braces for 2 years and I have just recently had them taken off and been given a retainer, however when i wear my retainer my bite feels normal and comfortable but once i take them off my bite feels very off as my lateral incisor hits the back of my central incisor and my right side of my teeth all touch but my left side feel different. I’ve been told to give it a while as I’m just getting used to it and my retainer will correct my bite but I’m unsure about this. Also I’m not sure but when i did have my braces I had elastic bands in the formation called brazil but in all honesty I did not wear them often, could this be the cause of this?

    • I can’t comment on your case specifically. There are too many variables and I’m not familiar with your treatment. Your best bet is to return to the doctor that treated you and explain what you’re experiencing. This issue can be fixed.

  7. Robert Wilson says:

    This article was give an excellent view,it’s very helpful. Thanks.

  8. Maria says:

    hi i had my invisalign for 21 months, i had an over bite where all my front teeth where like a square but i feel like my k9 teeth are too out.

    • Please discuss this with your orthodontist so that he can help evaluate it. It may be that you are just not used to the correct alignment, or you may need him to get another refinement set of aligners to “tuck in” the canines to where they look good to you.

  9. Kirk Davis says:

    Hi Doc,

    My orthodontics is awesome. I am 50 and have had my braces on for 26 months. My bottom teeth were really crowding and turning and my incisors were not hitting enough to keep my bottom teeth from hammering away at the top. I say all this because that probably gives you an idea of my my ortho has had to do.

    He did not put brackets on 18,31,2,3,14,15. 30 is not out where I feel it should be (not inline). Would it be offensive to him (or you) if the patient asked for another bracket to help bring 30 in? Or,would that be impossible because my wire is now too big, and going down to a wire they could get on the frankentooth would be bad? Also, number 26 is inline,but has an angle to it. In that 23-26 aren’t flared at all, it seems tilting them out a bit would give more room to straighten up that tooth.

    I just want to know if I am expecting too much? I thought about seeing another ortho to get their thoughts,but I am sure it would get back to my guy, and I feel like I should talk to him first, lest he be offended.

    Thanks!

    • This is a discussion you need to have with your current orthodontist. Ask him to explain why there are not brackets on all of the teeth and then you either have to trust him or leave him. Do no play one doctor off another. Bad to have two doctors trying to work on one smile. Good luck!

  10. sanford l Rosenthal says:

    I just had jaw surgery to fix an overbite I had my entire life. My 3rd time with braces. Surgery went well and actually improved my oxygen flow and I am no longer snoring. I’m 9 weeks since the surgery and the bands are off and my ortho has changed my wire. My lower jaw is now shifting a few mm’s to the right but my oral surgeon feels the ortho can correct the bite to adjust to this. He recognized this immediately after the surgery with xrays but decided not to go back in the next day after surgery as I was extremely swollen. I didn’t see the full effects until the bands came off and now I want to go back and redo the surgery to correct this as my mouth is slightly off. Are there any risks to doing it so soon after the initial surgery. I am hoping since the break was already done the surgery won’t be as difficult if it’s done soon to correct this. I Just feel like i made it to the goal line and so close to a perfection. thanks for your advice

    • This is more of a question for another oral surgeon as they do this every day. As an orthodontist, I usually get “the result” from the surgeon 6 to 8 weeks post-surgery and I get no say about the surgical phase. From an orthodontic perspective, if the condyles were not fully seated in the fossa during the procedure, the shift that occurs after the bands come off is sometimes difficult if not impossible to correct with braces alone. I would insist upon a formal consultation with your surgeon to discuss your concerns and would consider a second opinion if you are unsatisfied with his response/explanation. Good luck!

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