Do your upper front teeth hang low over your lower front teeth? These are known as “buck teeth,” and beyond being a cosmetic concern, they can cause a number of pain points. Speech impediments, difficulties chewing, airway problems — there are many impacts that buck teeth can have on your overall wellbeing. Indeed, trips to your orthodontist over concerns like buck teeth are among the most important doctor appointments that you shouldn’t skip.
What exactly are buck teeth, and what causes them? What are your treatment options? Read on for a comprehensive look at this issue and what you can do to avoid complications associated with it.
What Are Buck Teeth?
Buck teeth — also called an overjet or overbite — is a condition in which the upper front teeth protrude over the lower front teeth. They can occur naturally or result from specific behaviors (read more on the causes below). As noted above, complications from buck teeth can range from simple cosmetic concerns to problems eating or breathing.
Overjet vs. Overbite
Note that the term “buck teeth” is often used to describe two different types of protrusions: overjet and overbite. While these terms are commonly used interchangeably, they have different meanings. Overjet refers to the horizontal distance between the upper and lower front teeth. On the other hand, overbite refers to a vertical overlap between the upper and lower front teeth.
While these are different conditions, they can both have negative effects on an individual’s wellbeing, and they can both worsen over time. It’s important to identify and fix instances of overbite or overjet promptly to avoid any complications.
What Causes Buck Teeth?
Many factors can contribute to the development of protruding teeth, and identifying the exact cause can help you prevent the condition from getting worse. The causes of buck teeth include:
- Genetics: An overbite or overjet can be hereditary — a natural alignment based on your genetics. The best way to mitigate hereditary buck teeth is to consult an orthodontist and formulate a treatment plan at an early age. Read more on treatment options later in this guide.
- Tongue Thrusting: If a person has an unusual tongue position or swallowing pattern, they may apply constant pressure on their front teeth with their tongue. Over an extended period of time, this habit can cause their teeth to begin protruding, potentially causing problems like an open bite or buck teeth.
- Thumb Sucking: Persistent thumb sucking can affect the alignment of a child’s teeth. While most children stop this behavior between the ages of 2 and 4, some may continue this behavior. This can result in protruding teeth if the behavior is not addressed.
Note that, regardless of the specific cause, good oral hygiene can slow the progression of buck teeth, in addition to a plethora of other health benefits. This can give individuals more time to seek treatment before the issue worsens to a state where it begins to dramatically impact their health. This is but one of many reasons why it is essential to teach good personal hygiene habits at a young age.
How to Fix Buck Teeth
Many people with buck teeth do not seek treatment. Indeed, it is possible to live with buck teeth, though it can cause discomfort or even harm, depending on your condition. Given that protruding teeth can worsen over time, however, it is important to discuss the severity of your malocclusion with an orthodontist and explore treatment options.
You may find various do-it-yourself methods for fixing a buck teeth, but trying these methods is a very bad idea. Indeed, DIY teeth-straightening methods can lead to permanent damage to your teeth and gums — potentially far worse than what might occur over time naturally without any treatment at all.
Instead, discuss the following treatment options with a qualified professional:
Braces are dental appliances that are designed to apply pressure on the teeth and slowly move them. Braces can help rectify overjet or overbite by slowly pushing the protruding teeth into a healthier and more cosmetically appealing configuration. In general, treatment can take anywhere from one to two years, though it can be shorter or longer depending on your specific circumstances.
Braces can be made of metal or ceramic and come in different varieties. Each type of braces has its own pros and cons, and it’s important to weigh these when determining which option is right for you. Certain braces are highly visible, and some can impact the types of food you should avoid (such as hard or acidic foods). The cost of braces is also a major consideration, as prices vary from type to type.
When wearing braces you must be attentive to oral hygiene and any instructions given to you by your orthodontist. In addition to brushing, flossing, and cleaning your braces regularly, you’ll need to maintain all appointments with your orthodontist to maximize the effectiveness of these devices.
Invisalign is an orthodontic treatment that can help straighten your teeth without the use of traditional braces. Instead, this approach uses custom clear aligners made of a plastic or acrylic material that are created based on a scan of your teeth. Your doctor will give you new aligners as your alignment progresses. Like braces, these are designed to slowly move your teeth for a better smile and improved long-term oral health. Invisalign treatments take 12 to 18 months on average, though this can vary based on your dental needs.
This approach to fixing buck teeth is an excellent option for individuals who want a subtle treatment plan that requires minimal maintenance. Users often state that they are more convenient and attractive than metal or ceramic braces. However, Invisalign can be expensive and must be worn for most of the day. Further, getting fitted for a new set can lead to some minor pain, and it can be uncomfortable to get accustomed to each new set.
Palate expanders are another type of orthodontic appliance. These are designed to create additional space and gradually widen the roof of the mouth. If the cause of an individual’s buck teeth is related to a narrow palate, this treatment can correct this problem. While the expansion of the palate is usually completed in less than a month, the appliance will typically remain in the mouth for up to half a year to make sure the changes stick.
There are many pros and cons to this treatment. It is a painless process that can improve breathing, chewing, and even sleep, in addition to resolving the cosmetic problems associated with buck teeth. However, they require special care and can result in discomfort and difficulties speaking while the appliance is present. While palate expanders are much more commonly used in children (because the jaw is not yet fully developed), many adults can also benefit from using them.
In rare cases, when buck teeth are caused by an individual’s skeletal or jaw structure, oral maxillofacial surgery may be required. This is particularly true for adults, whose jawbones are not as malleable as younger people. The procedure usually involves moving the upper jaw bones back or moving the lower jaw forward. However, this process may differ depending on your circumstances. In any case, the goal of this surgery is to reshape the mouth to eliminate the problem, as well as any potential health complications in the future.
Regardless of which treatment option sounds ideal for your needs, it’s important to schedule a consultation with an orthodontist for more insight and personalized care. This is the best route to addressing your overjet or overbite and avoiding the complications associated with buck teeth.