Buck teeth, also known as overjet or malocclusion, refer to the malalignment of the upper and lower front teeth. They are generally characterized by an abnormal protrusion of the upper front teeth that usually cover the lower lip. Buck teeth may cause health issues depending on the severity of malalignment.
Buck teeth are associated with overjet and not overbite, as is generally misconstrued. The horizontal overlap of the upper front teeth over the lower front teeth is called overjet, whereas the vertical overlap is called overbite. The normal range for an overjet is about 1.5–2.5 millimeters (1).
It is advisable to treat buck teeth early on to prevent future complications. Read on as we tell you all you need to know about buck teeth in kids.
Causes Of Buck Teeth
Several factors can lead to buck teeth in kids. Some of the most common causes include the following.
- Thumb-sucking: In babies and toddlers up to age five, thumb-sucking is considered normal. The eruption of permanent teeth begins at around six years, and thus, if the thumb-sucking habit persists after the age of five, it could lead to dental and speech problems, including the malalignment of the teeth (2) (3).
- Tongue-thrusting: It refers to the habit of pushing the tongue against or between the teeth while talking, swallowing, or resting. If this habit persists in your child beyond six years, it could lead to buck teeth and speech problems (4).
- Macrodontia: In some rare cases, buck teeth can be caused due to relative-generalized macrodontia, characterized by the presence of normal or slightly larger teeth in smaller jaws. This usually is due to genetic factors, and the size of teeth can be inherited from one parent, whereas the jaw’s size can be inherited from the other parent (5) (6).
- Genetics: Buck teeth are most often hereditary. The placement of teeth in the jaw, the jaw’s shape, etc., are passed down through generations (7).
- Pacifiers: Studies suggest that the use of pacifiers should be stopped after a child reaches the age of four to five years as it is when the permanent incisors erupt. At the time of eruption of permanent teeth, if the child is habituated to using pacifiers, it may cause malalignment, malocclusion, and other jaw developmental problems (8) (9).
- Extra, impacted, and missing teeth: Impacted teeth are the teeth inside the gum tissue or bone that fail to erupt. Impacted and extra teeth cause crowding in the jaw and may lead to buck teeth. Missing teeth, on the other hand, can create space in the jaw, allowing other teeth to drift and causing misalignment (7) (10).
- Cysts and tumors: Although rare, cysts and tumors in the jaw may also lead to displaced teeth, missing teeth, loose teeth, eruption of teeth at different sites than normal, and change in jaw position, any of which could cause buck teeth (7) (11).
- Lip incompetence: It refers to a condition in which the lips remain parted even at rest. If the lower lip gets trapped behind the upper front teeth, it can push the teeth in front and cause buck teeth (12).
Health Risks Due To Buck Teeth
Buck teeth pose certain risks, and these risks could range from mild to severe:
- Breathing problem: The inability to close the mouth completely due to protruded teeth may result in chronic mouth breathing. Also, the palate shape is usually narrow and high-arched in people with extremely protruded teeth, which can cause nasal problems, such as rhinitis (13) (14).
- Dry mouth: Incomplete mouth closure can result in dryness of the mouth and further lead to bad breath, swollen gums, oral infections, and weakening of teeth due to gum problems (15).
- Bad breath: Mouth breathing and dry mouth can cause bacterial infection in gums, oral tissues, and throat. The build-up of microorganisms can cause bad breath (halitosis) (16).
- Enlarged adenoids and tonsils: Malalignment, open bites, and mouth breathing result in enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids as the nasal filtration is surpassed in these cases. This could increase the likelihood of microbial attacks and respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold (17).
- Speech impediment: When the upper front teeth are placed far from the tongue, it might cause speech impediment in kids.
- Deep bite: This is also known as an overbite or a closed bite. In this condition, the lower front teeth are unable to meet the upper front teeth at the normal meeting point. When the upper and lower teeth are not aligned, the upper teeth can bite into the lower gums, and the lower teeth can bite into the roof of the mouth, leading to gum problems, ulcers, and enamel wear (18) (19).
- Mastication problems: Each tooth has a specific role. When the upper and lower incisors do not meet correctly due to malalignment, it can cause mastication (chewing) problems and also cause pressure on the jaw joint.
- Hampered esthetics: Buck teeth can hamper a person’s appearance. Inability in closing the mouth, swollen dry gums, and inward placement of lower lip are all results of untreated buck teeth. Esthetic problems can shatter a person’s confidence.
Treatment For Buck Teeth
At times, parents and caregivers may fail to recognize buck teeth as a problem. But, often, the solution lies in correcting buck teeth when the first signs start to appear. This can help avoid future risks. A dentist or orthodontist performs the treatment for buck teeth.
Let’s discuss the buck teeth treatment modalities in detail.
- Habit-breaking appliances: A dentist prepares customized appliances from the mold of a person’s teeth. A habit breaking appliance for tongue-thrusting and thumb-sucking can be given to a child as young as six. The appliance can be of fixed or removable type, but fixed appliances are advisable.
- Orthodontic braces: This is the traditional way of correcting malaligned teeth by an orthodontist. Orthodontic braces can be removable or fixed and are usually made of flexible metal wires. Sometimes, an orthodontic brace can be paired with habit breaking appliances. It takes months to achieve the desired results through wire-based corrections. The treatment is often done to straighten or move teeth to the desired position (20).
- Mouth guards: These are given to patients with deep bite, bruxism, and abrasive teeth problems. The guards protect the teeth from abrasion due to teeth grinding and while playing contact sports (21).
- Palate expansion: A narrow and high-arched palate can cause rhinitis, blocked nose, breathing problems, and mouth breathing. This can be corrected through palatal expansion and is best done when the child is below 14. A customized palate expander is made for every patient, and it helps create space to accommodate all the teeth and solve crowding (22).
- Invisalign: It is used for correcting minor malalignments. It requires fewer visits to the dentist, looks transparent and esthetic, and corrects the malalignment without much discomfort. Oral hygiene can be maintained better using Invisalign (23).
- Extraction of teeth: In some cases, your child’s dentist may recommend extraction of buck teeth for bite correction (24).
- Surgery: Orthognathic surgeries are performed, and the jaw’s size and placement are adjusted according to the occlusion. Some cases of protruded teeth cannot be resolved with surgery alone. Thus, a combination of orthognathic surgery, orthodontic braces, and habit-breaking appliances are needed to achieve perfect results.
- Lip exercises: In the case of lip incompetence, a dentist may suggest some lip exercises to be done for months to activate the lip and oral muscles. Activation of lip muscles can sometimes help in complete lip closure.
Managing Buck Teeth In Kids
If one chooses to live with buck teeth, here are some self-care tips to avoid the associated risks:
- Practice good oral hygiene.
- Try oil pulling.
- Massage the gums with castor oil once every week.
- Gargle your mouth with warm water and salt daily as a part of oral hygiene.
- Visit the dentist regularly.
- Include citrus fruits in your diet for healthy gums.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can buck teeth be treated at home?
No, buck teeth cannot be treated at home. For displacing or moving the teeth without damage, a specific amount of force is applied at a particular point on the tooth. This can only be done by an orthodontist or a dentist.
2. Will sucking the thumb as a child cause “buck teeth”?
Babies and toddlers suck their thumb in response to rooting and suckling instincts. When the habit extends beyond the age of five, it could cause buck teeth as the thumb exerts unwanted pressure on erupting permanent teeth, resulting in abnormal positioning of the teeth.
Consult a dentist or orthodontist if your child has buck teeth and discuss the treatment options to prevent future complications. In adults, treatment is needed if buck teeth cause discomfort. If a person has no problems associated with such teeth arrangement and is confident of their looks, the treatment can be avoided.
2. Thumb-Sucking; Regents of the University of Michigan
3. Thumb sucking and pacifier use; American Dental Association
4. Tongue Thrust; Intermountain Healthcare
5. Ebru Canoglu, et al.; Isolated bilateral macrodontia of mandibular second premolars: A case report; European Journal of Dentistry (2012).
6. What you need to know about macrodontia; Muswell Hill Smile
7. Malocclusion of teeth; MedlinePlus
8. Pacifier Pros and Cons; University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester
9. James Poyak; Effects of pacifiers on early oral development; International Journal of Orthodontics (2016).
10. Impacted tooth; MedlinePlus
11. 5 Causes of Protruding Teeth; Bethesda Family Dentistry
12. Protruding Teeth; Health Online Unit, Ministry of Health Malaysia
13. Rhinitis; Johns Hopkins Medicine
14. Nina Lakhani, Michelle North, and Anne K. Ellis; Clinical Manifestations of Allergic Rhinitis; Journal of Allergy & Therapy (2012).
15. Dry Mouth: Home Treatment and Prevention; Regents of the University of Michigan
16. Lara Jansiski Motta, et al.; Association between halitosis and mouth breathing in children; Clinics (Sao Paulo) (2011).
17. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids: Overview; Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care
18. 7 Common Bite Problems in Children and Adults; American Association of Orthodontists
19. What is a Deep Bite?; American Association of Orthodontists
20. Orthodontic treatment; Oral Health Foundation
21. Mouthguards; Cleveland Clinic
22. Dental: Wearing a Palatal Expander; Nationwide Children’s Hospital
23. What is Invisalign?; Mon OrthoDontiste
24. Why tooth extractions are sometimes necessary in orthodontic treatment; Orthodontics Australia
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