“Overbite”, “overjet” or simply “buck teeth”– protruding teeth can go by many names, but “pretty” isn’t one of them. And they aren’t comfortable either; upper teeth that extend well past the lower teeth can often make it difficult to close the mouth, chew or speak easily.
It’s a common condition, but not one that people have to live with. In fact, there are just as many corrective methods for this dental problem as the names it has been given! If you (or a loved one) has buck teeth, get an in-depth look at what may have caused it and what you can do to prevent it from becoming a lifelong burden on your looks, oral health and self-esteem.
Thanks to the help of modern technology, there are many available treatments to fix buck teeth.
It’s highly recommended to fix buck teeth at an early age as the treatment process is easier. Adults with buck teeth can be treated but it takes longer time to fix as the gums have hardened and the teeth are already permanent.
Causes of Buck Teeth
Protruding teeth are caused by numerous factors, some of which are developmental while others are due to personal habits. Buck teeth can be minor with the front teeth only showing slight prominence over they can be so prominent that the protruding teeth are the first thing you notice about a person.
Buck teeth can easily be identified at a very early age, and can be due to a variety of factors including:
- Genes / Jaw Imbalance: a person can inherit the problem if born with naturally uneven jaws. This imbalance between the upper and lower jaw can position teeth incorrectly.
- Large Tooth Size: If the teeth are of larger size than normal, they take up more space and may appear protruded.
- Habits: teeth can jut out after constant pacifier/thumb sucking or tongue thrusting. These habits hinder the proper growth of the front teeth and causes the teeth to flare outward. If the habit is stopped early enough, the teeth may spontaneously realign and no treatment will be needed.
- Crowded teeth: crookedness, facial injury and/or tooth abnormalities can play a role.
The severity of the condition can vary from mild to extreme, and may gradually become worse over time if left untreated.
Does Thumb Sucking Cause Buck Teeth?
About 80% of infants and children suck their thumbs. It’s a perfectly natural reflex and it helps them feel secure. The American Dental Association warns that prolonged thumb sucking can cause misalignment of teeth so we recommend that after the age of 4 parents should discourage thumb sucking. It is at this age that the gums, jaws and permanent teeth begin their most significant growth and continued thumb sucking can contribute to the misalignment of teeth and cause changes in the roof of the mouth.
Age and the depth of a patient’s overbite are two primary factors that can dictate the type of treatment an orthodontist chooses to correct the problem. New techniques are always being explored, but here are a few of the most common recommendations:
Whether metal, ceramic or clear, it’s a popular route many orthodontists take to fix protruding teeth. Teeth that are jutting out are straightened and forced closer in alignment with the lower jaw by tightening the braces over time.
In mild cases of protruding teeth, clear, removable aligners may be a more comfortable and convenient option. Aligners use less force (and thus result in less pain) than braces and can be removed for added ease when brushing or flossing.
Extreme cases in which the overbite is due to skeletal/jaw structure may require surgery. Patients who fall into this category are referred to an oral maxillofacial surgeon, and surgery usually involves pushing the maxilla bones (which form the upper jaw) behind, or moving the mandible (lower jaw) forward.
Surgery aside, the length of time it takes to achieve results is largely due to when the problem is treated. Younger patients whose jaws are still developing typically require less time to correct an overbite compared to adults whose jaws are not as malleable.
Benefits of Treatment
Even the mildest cases of overbite can reap significant benefits from professional treatment. Perhaps the most noticeable improvement is cosmetic in nature. Once treatment is complete, any bulging around the mouth disappears and patients may experience less strain in their facial muscles.
Being able to open and close the mouth more easily can also vastly improve speech, especially for those who adopted a slur or lisp due to an overbite. And last but not least, better alignment of the teeth can have a profound effect on oral health, making it easier to clean the teeth and minimize the risk of jaw-related disorders such as TMJ.
Why are Buck Teeth a Problem?
Most people simply want to fix their buck teeth due to cosmetic reasons. And while that is a great reason to want to get this fixed, there are some other health implicating reasons to correct an overbite.
- Speech impediments
When the upper front teeth and lips are impacted by protruding teeth it can affect your speech. Typically a person with a large overbite or open bite will have difficulty saying words with the letters S, F, SH, V, TH, P, M and B.
- Airway concerns
Even though the buck teeth themselves do not cause a problem with your airway, there is a strong correlation between protruding teeth and airway problems. Very crowded teeth typically result in a smaller jaw size which often also means a smaller airway. A lower jaw that is retruded and small also translates to a deficient airway. Both of these lead to problems like snoring, sleep-disordered breathing and sleep apnea.
- Chewing deficiencies
Chewing efficiency decreases any time you have teeth that do not come together in a proper bite. As a result your teeth are not able to break down food the way they are meant to. Inadequate chewing impacts the your digestion process. And in severe cases of buck teeth where the upper teeth do not even come in contact with the lower teeth, you are unable to bite through foods like pizza and sandwiches.
What NOT to do About Buck Teeth
Of course it would be great if there a simple at home remedy to correcting buck teeth. Unfortunately, this really is something that needs to be corrected by an experienced dental professional. In order to maintain healthy roots and jawbones, the teeth must be moved with very precise forces. If the teeth are moved too quickly or improperly the roots can dissolve and the jawbones can shrink which leads to periodontal disease.
If you’ve been battling a case of buck teeth, get it fixed for good by finding an orthodontist near you. If you are in the Issaquah, WA area contact us today to schedule an appointmentwith Dr. Herzog to learn about your treatment options.
– Dr. Mark Herzog
Issaquah Dental Health
Beercroft, Matt. (2014, June 5). Overbite: Causes & Treatments. Retrieved June 17, 2015
Orthodontic Disorders (2012). Retrieved June 17, 2015