Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 1-10-2020
Many imperfect smiles are simply an aesthetic issue. However, some problems can impact your dental health. One of the most common of these smile challenges is “buck” teeth.
Also known as an overbite, this “malocclusion” is a misalignment of the teeth that can be barely noticeable and cause no issues. But severe, noticeable overbites can lead to potential dental problems. Here’s everything you need to know about buck teeth in kids and what treatment options are available.
What are buck teeth?
‘Buck teeth’ refers to an overbite, which causes the upper teeth to protrude further out over the lower teeth than they should. While some cases won’t cause much more than a cosmetic inconvenience, more severe cases can interfere with dental health, potentially damaging the teeth and gums. Some people also find they are more prone to accidentally biting their tongue. The severity of buck teeth and its causes will determine what treatment, if any, is recommended.
What causes buck teeth?
There are a few reasons your child might have buck teeth:
Physical attributes such as jaw shape can be passed on from parent to child. This can make buck teeth more common in some families. If either parent or other family members have an overbite, there is a chance your child will have one as well. This is often due to smaller upper or lower jaw or jaws that are misaligned or uneven.
2. Thumb or pacifier sucking
Children who suck their thumb or use a pacifier for long periods are at risk of buck teeth. The constant sucking motion is natural in babies as it is automatic for nursing. However, if you allow your child to use a pacifier or suck their thumb beyond the age of three, they can develop buck teeth.
As your child sucks and their finger is continuously pressed against their teeth and gums, their permanent teeth can be forced into an abnormal position. Regardless of whether they suck their thumb or a pacifier, the longer they continue to suck, the higher risk for malocclusions such as buck teeth.
If your child’s tongue presses too far forward in their mouth, this can lead to malocclusions including overbite or open bite. Tongue-thrusting can be caused by poor swallowing habits and is also more common in children who suffer from chronically swollen tonsils or adenoids. While tongue-thrust is more common in children, some adults can also have it due to stress, which causes them to “thrust” their tongue at night.
4. Teeth issues
Issues with teeth, such as having extra, missing, or impacted teeth, can lead to alignment changes. Missing teeth can force the front teeth forward; having too many teeth causes teeth to crowd.
5. Tumours and cysts
The appearance of tumours or cysts in a child’s mouth or jaw can also lead to buck teeth due to swelling or growth. Depending on where it is, the teeth can be forced forward, causing an overbite.
We keep an eye on your child’s bite, jaw and teeth to look for potential issues requiring attention.
What are the health risks of buck teeth?
Many people live with their buck teeth without any apparent issues. However, the more severe the overbite, the more problems it can cause. When your child’s buck teeth prevent a normal bite, this can lead to the following issues:
- Speech impediments
- Breathing issues
- Chewing issues
- Damage to their teeth and gums
- Painful bite and chewing
- Changes to their face
We assess your child’s bite at their regular checkups to look for issues before they develop.
What treatment is available for buck teeth?
Only cases of severe overbite require treatment. However, it is not uncommon for people with buck teeth or even a slight overbite to choose cosmetic treatments to improve their smile’s appearance. The common buck teeth treatments are based on tooth size, jaw shape and bite type. Typical treatment plans include:
This is the most common treatment. Usually recommended in childhood or teens, traditional wire braces use metal brackets and wires to reposition the teeth to create a straight smile and improve the bite. Adults who were not given braces as a child often seek out braces for cosmetic reasons.
2. Braces and extractions
For those with crowding issues, tooth extraction in hand with braces is often required. This allows more room for the remaining teeth to be manipulated into the ideal position.
3. Palate expansion
This treatment is used for children or teens with a smaller upper jaw. If the jaw is unable to accommodate adult teeth, an appliance can help expand the palate to make more room. Two “palatal expanders” are affixed to the upper molars, which are then adjusted gradually using an expansion screw. This slowly widens the palate into the ideal position.
These invisible braces use a series of clear, plastic aligners to ease teeth into the proper position instead of wires and metal brackets. Invisalign braces consist of removable aligners replaced at home every two weeks or so. The aligners are customized to your child’s teeth and require very few dental appointments.
5. Jaw surgery
In severe cases, “Orthognathic” surgery is required. However, this is performed on adults once growing has stopped. The surgery corrects issues between the lower and upper jaws for an improved bite.
Are there any natural at-home treatments for buck teeth?
Simply put, no. Only a dental professional can correct issues related to buck teeth. The best ‘natural’ treatment is prevention and good oral habits during your developing years.
Do I have to have buck teeth treated?
Many people are perfectly happy living with an overbite. If we determine there are no risks associated with buck teeth, your child can enjoy oral health for life. However, there are a few steps you can take to help keep your child’s teeth healthy:
- Practice good oral hygiene: brushing twice daily and flossing
- Have regular dental checkups so we can keep an eye on things
- Use a mouth guard during sleep if we determine your child has tongue-thrust
- Use a custom mouthguard when participating in high-impact sports.
While buck teeth can be embraced as a unique look if they lead to discomfort or potential dental issues, it is always best to proceed with the recommended treatment. Your child might also find they are not happy with the look of their teeth. You can decide together if braces or Invisalign treatment is an option.