Buck teeth are also known as an overbite or malocclusion. It’s a misalignment of the teeth that can range in severity.
Many people choose to live with buck teeth and not treat them. Late rock icon Freddie Mercury, for instance, kept and embraced his severe overbite.
Others may prefer to treat their overbite for cosmetic reasons.
Still others may need treatment to avoid complications, such as damage to other teeth, gums, or the tongue from accidental biting.
The cause, severity, and symptoms play a role in if and how you should treat buck teeth.
Front upper teeth that protrude out over the lower teeth are commonly referred to as buck teeth, or overbite.
Buck teeth are often hereditary. Jaw shape, like other physical features, can be passed down through generations. Childhood habits, such as thumb-sucking and pacifier use, are some other possible causes of buck teeth.
Buck teeth from thumb-sucking
Your parents were telling the truth when they warned you that sucking your thumb could cause buck teeth.
Thumb-sucking is referred to as non-nutritive sucking behavior (NNSB), meaning that the sucking motion isn’t providing any nutrition as it would from nursing.
When this continues past the age of 3 or 4 or while the permanent teeth are appearing, the pressure created by the sucking and the finger can cause the permanent teeth to come in at an abnormal angle.
Buck teeth from pacifier
Sucking on a pacifier is another form of NNSB. It can cause an overbite the same way that sucking on a thumb can.
According to research published in 2016 in the Journal of the American Dental Association, pacifier use was associated with a higher risk of developing malocclusions than finger- or thumb-sucking.
Tongue-thrust occurs when the tongue presses too far forward in the mouth. While this usually results in a malocclusion known as “open bite,” it can also sometimes cause an overbite.
The condition is most common in children, but it can carry on into adulthood.
It can be caused by a number of things, such as chronically swollen adenoids or tonsils and poor swallowing habits. In adults, stress can also cause it. Some adults thrust their tongue during sleep.
Some people are born with an uneven jaw or a small upper or lower jaw. An overbite or prominent front teeth are often hereditary, and your parents, siblings, or other relatives may also have a similar appearance.
Missing teeth, extra teeth, and impacted teeth
Spacing or crowding can change the alignment of your front teeth and cause the appearance of buck teeth. Missing teeth allows your remaining teeth to shift over time, affecting the position of your front teeth.
On the flip side, not having enough space to accommodate teeth can also causes alignment issues. Crowding can occur when you have extra teeth or impacted teeth.
Tumors and cysts of the mouth or jaw
Tumors and cysts in the mouth or jaw can change the alignment of your teeth and the shape of your mouth and jaw. This happens when persistent swelling or a growth — either soft tissue or bony — in the upper part of your mouth or jaw causes your teeth to shift forward.
Tumors and cysts in the oral cavity or jaw can also cause pain, lumps, and sores.
An overbite may cause health issues depending on how severe it is and whether it prevents a normal bite.
An overbite can cause issues including:
- speech impediments
- breathing issues
- chewing deficiencies
- damage to other teeth and gums
- pain when chewing or biting
- alterations in the appearance of the face
Unless your overbite is severe and causing discomfort, treatment isn’t medically necessary. If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your teeth, you’ll need to see a dentist or orthodontist for treatment.
There is no one standard way to treat buck teeth because teeth come in different sizes, and bite types and jaw relationships vary from person to person. A dentist or orthodontist determines the best treatment plan based on your needs.
Traditional wire braces and retainers are the most common treatment for buck teeth.
Many people get braces in childhood or during their teenage years, but adults can benefit from them, too. Metal brackets and wires attached to the teeth are manipulated over time to gradually move the teeth for a straighter smile.
Tooth extraction is sometimes recommended if more room is required to straighten the teeth.
Palate expansion is usually used to treat children or adolescents whose upper jaw is too small to accommodate adult teeth.
A special appliance that consists of two pieces called a palatal expander attaches to the upper molars. An expansion screw moves the two pieces apart gradually to widen the palate.
Invisalign can be used to treat minor malocclusions in teenagers and adults. A series of clear plastic aligners are made from a mold of your teeth and worn over the teeth to gradually change their position.
Invisalign costs more than traditional braces but requires fewer trips to the dentist.
Orthognathic surgery is used to treat severe issues. It’s also used for people who have stopped growing to correct the relationship between the upper and lower jaws.
An overbite can’t be fixed at home. Only a dentist or orthodontist can safely treat buck teeth.
Changing the alignment of your teeth requires precise pressure applied over time to help achieve the desired look and avoid serious injury to the roots and jawbones.
For severe issues, surgery may be the best or only option.
If you choose to live with your overbite, here are a few things that you can do to help keep your teeth healthy and avoid issues that can be caused by misalignment:
- Practice good oral hygiene.
- Have regular dental exams.
- Use a mouth guard during sleep or times of stress if you tongue-thrust.
- Protect your teeth with a mouth guard when participating in high-impact sports.
Teeth, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. Buck teeth only require treatment if they’re severe and causing discomfort or if you’re unhappy with your appearance and prefer to have them corrected.
A dentist or orthodontist can help determine the best option based on your needs.