What are Buck Teeth?
Most people consider “buck teeth” to be large front teeth that protrude out from under the lip, and sometimes even cover the lower lip. A toothpaste commercial for Ipana in the 1950’s popularized this idea by having a Disney-created mascot called “Bucky Beaver”, in which he sang and pointed to his two large front teeth.
Buck teeth can be minor with the two front teeth showing slight prominence over the adjacent lateral incisors. They can also be so prominent that the protruding teeth are the first thing you notice about a person. In some severe cases, a person with buck teeth may not be able to close his or her lips over the protruding teeth.
When a dentist hears “buck teeth”, he or she typically will mentally diagnose a class II malocclusion. Class II malocclusions (literally “bad bite”) are defined by an improper relationship between the upper and lower teeth and/or jaws. In a correct bite, the upper teeth should fit over the lower teeth like a lid on a box (as shown by the “healthy” teeth in the diagram below). In a class II malocclusion, the lid is much too large for the box.
What Causes Buck Teeth?
Tooth angulation & tooth position
Buck teeth can be a problem with tooth angulation, tooth position, or jaw relationship.
- Problems with tooth angulation, where the upper teeth point outward towards the lip instead of downward towards the lower teeth, are commonly caused by habits like thumb-sucking or pacifier use. These habits are referred to as “Non-nutritive sucking behavior” or NNSB. This term means the child is producing a sucking motion on a finger or pacifier and not obtaining any nutrition from it, as opposed to nursing, which does provide nutrition. All NNSB in infancy is normal. According to the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, any NNSB which persists after age 4 years is considered abnormal. The pressure created by the sucking and the barrier created by the finger or pacifier cause the permanent teeth to come into the mouth at an abnormal angle. This causes either an overbite or open bite as shown in the diagram.
- Problems with tooth position occur very commonly when the tooth size is too large or the jaw size is too small, forcing the teeth into an overlapped, crowded position. As the permanent teeth come into the mouth, teeth erupt where there is space. If the space where a baby tooth is lost is much smaller than the permanent tooth that needs to come into that space, then it will go where it has room to erupt. Some teeth will rotate; others will position themselves behind the front teeth, causing the front teeth to look larger and more prominent.
- Problems with jaw size occur when the upper and lower jaws have a discrepancy in size and don’t fit together well. In most cases, the lower jaw is either too small or in a retruded position. It is rare for a person to have a perfectly normal lower jaw and an upper jaw that is too large. So what causes this too-small-lower-jaw? There are some genetic influences on the size of the jaw, and the growth of a jaw can be stunted by injuries. The jaw joint can also suffer from degenerative arthritis, which would cause it to shorten in size.
Why are Buck Teeth a Problem?
Not only are buck teeth a cosmetic concern, there are actually health implications.
- Chewing deficiencies – Anytime the teeth do not come together in a proper bite, chewing efficiency is decreased. This means your teeth are not able to break down food the way they are meant to. Chewing is the first step in digestion, and when it is inadequate, the digestion process is affected. In severe cases of buck teeth, where the upper teeth do not come in contact with the lower teeth, you are unable to bite through foods like sandwiches and pizza.
- Speech impediments – Because the relationship between the upper front teeth and the lips are impacted by buck teeth, it affects the speech. Specifically, a person with a large overbite or open bite will have trouble saying words with the letters: S, F, SH, V, TH, P, M, and B.
- Airway concerns–The buck teeth themselves do not cause problems with the airway, but the causes of buck teeth have a strong correlation with airway problems. If the teeth are very crowded, the small jaw size that led to crowding often also means a small airway. A lower jaw that is retruded and small also translates to a deficient airway. A deficient or small airway leads to problems like snoring, sleep-disordered breathing and sleep apnea, which all affect quality of life.
How can Buck Teeth be fixed?
Buck Teeth Treatment
The treatment for buck teeth depends on the severity of the case.
- Invisible aligners – Minor crowding causing the appearance of prominent front teeth can be corrected using invisible aligners.
- Buck teeth Braces – More complex overbites or open bites may require the movement of the back teeth and jaws. This movement almost always requires comprehensive orthodontic treatment with brackets and wires. This type of treatment is most successful with early intervention. Children who are still growing will respond best to orthodontic treatment to fix buck teeth.
- Orthognathic surgery (jaw surgery)–In severe cases or patients who have stopped growing, jaw surgery may be necessary to produce the appropriate relationship between the upper and lower jaws. In these severe cases, a team of dentist, orthodontist and oral surgeon work together to coordinate your care.
What NOT to do about Buck Teeth?
In a world of do-it-yourself, buck teeth are not a problem you should tackle on your own. Teeth must be moved with very precise forces in order to maintain healthy roots and jawbones. When teeth are moved improperly or too quickly, the roots can dissolve, and the jawbones can shrink, leading to periodontal disease. Don’t take that risk. Call us to set up a consultation with Dr. Agarwal. She will address your concerns and discuss your best treatment options.
If you’ve been battling a case of buck teeth, get it fixed for good by finding an orthodontist near you. Need more details visit Definition Dental