Buck teeth, or protruding front teeth, describe a type of bite issue where the top row of teeth overlaps with the bottom row. In severe cases, it may result in health problems and require treatments to help align the teeth.

With many people calling it an overbite, buck teeth refer to a common dental issue where the top front teeth cover or overlap the bottom front teeth. Very pronounced protrusive front teeth may cause difficulties with chewing and speaking and make a person more susceptible to pain and trauma.

Many potential underlying causes can result in buck teeth, and they can occur from infancy to adulthood. Dental specialists can correct the alignment of a person’s teeth, for both health and cosmetic reasons, using orthodontic treatment options, such as braces.

In this article, we will discuss the causes of buck teeth, potential health risks, and treatment options.

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Protruding front teeth, or buck teeth, describe a bite issue that some people may call an overbite. In orthodontics, a bite refers to how the upper and lower teeth come together.

As such, an overbite is when the upper teeth noticeably extend out over the lower teeth. A person’s teeth may appear protrusive for several reasons, such as the upper jaw being too far forward, the lower jaw too far back, or teeth growing at an angle.

Dentists and orthodontists may also refer to protruding front teeth as an occlusal trait or dental malocclusion. These terms describe a misalignment that causes the teeth to meet improperly or not at all. Typically, the upper teeth should fit slightly over the lower teeth, and the molars should fit in the grooves of the opposite molar. An orthodontist may classify an overbite as a class two malocclusion of the teeth.

Dental malocclusion is relatively common — a 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis suggests the worldwide prevalence of the condition is 56%. A series of Estonian studies in 4–5, 7–10, and 17–21-year-olds note that an overbite was a common occlusal trait in these groups. However, a 2019 study suggests that one-third of American adults do not exhibit a clinically meaningful malocclusion.

There are many potential causes of buck teeth, and factors, such as genes and the environment, can contribute toward the development of an overbite.

A common cause of protrusive teeth is thumb or finger sucking or the use of a pacifier, particularly beyond the age of 5 years. After children have developed their permanent teeth, thumb sucking can affect the alignment of the teeth and may lead to buck teeth. Thumb sucking can also affect the typical growth of the mouth and alter the roof of the mouth.

Click here to learn more about adult thumb sucking.

Other possible causes of malocclusion may include:

  • injury to the mouth, causing a misalignment of the jaw and teeth
  • genetics, if a biological parent has protrusive teeth
  • tongue thrusting
  • missing or crowded teeth
  • bruxism, or grinding of the teeth
  • atypically-shaped or impacted teeth

People may receive a diagnosis of buck teeth through a regular dental checkup. To check for any misalignment in the mouth, a dentist may pull back each cheek with a tool called a tongue depressor while the person closes their back teeth together.

A dentist may also take X-rays of the teeth to check the internal structures. They may also take an impression of the teeth using a mold that they place into the mouth. They will then pour plaster into the mold. This can show a dentist how the jaw closes together, whether people have buck teeth, and whether they require any treatment.

In some cases, a dentist may refer people to an orthodontist, an expert in treating malocclusions.

Without treatment, buck teeth may cause health problems, such as:

  • difficulty with chewing or eating
  • problems speaking
  • teeth grinding
  • in children, loss of baby teeth too early or late
  • mouth breathing
  • tooth decay or gum disease, as a misaligned bite can be more difficult to clean properly
  • problems with the jaw
  • jaw pain and headaches due to pressure on the jaw joint
  • tooth fractures

Even in less severe cases, a protrusion of the front teeth may affect an individual’s self-esteem and well-being.

People with mild cases of buck teeth may not require any treatment. However, in individuals with severe buck teeth, treatment may be necessary for health reasons. Treatment options for buck teeth may include the below.


Braces can help correct the positioning of the teeth to reduce pain and any other issues from an overbite. A dentist or orthodontist will use a special glue to attach brackets to each tooth. They will then fit wires into the brackets and use rubber bands to hold them in place.

A brace may feel tight and uncomfortable at first and after any tightening. If a brace irritates the inside of the mouth or cheeks, individuals can apply a special wax to the braces to provide relief. People may also find it easier to eat soft foods after a brace fitting.

Click here to learn more about braces.

Over time, a brace will move the teeth into the correct position. People may need to wear a brace for 2 years or longer, depending on their condition. After the braces correctly align the teeth, they may need to wear a retainer to keep them in position. People may have a fixed wire retainer or a removable plastic or wire retainer. They may also need to wear it for the rest of their lives.

Click here to learn tips about cleaning a retainer.

Overbite surgery

In some cases, people may require surgery to correct buck teeth. If there is a significant difference between the upper and lower jaw, a person may need surgery to properly align the jaw.

If individuals have healthcare or dental insurance, they can check with their provider to see if they will cover dental costs. The American Association of Orthodontists also provides a list of resources that may help with the costs of dental work.

To ensure good dental hygiene, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following tips:

  • brush the teeth twice daily
  • floss daily to remove plaque buildup
  • use a fluoride toothpaste
  • attend annual checkups with a dentist or as regularly as necessary
  • avoid tobacco products and limit alcohol
  • consult a dentist if people experience any issues with the teeth or unexplained changes in taste or smell
  • for dry mouth, try drinking plenty of water and chewing sugarless gum
  • if dry mouth is due to medication, consult a doctor about alternative medications
  • if a medical condition puts people at risk of gum disease, such as diabetes, take steps to manage the condition

For braces and any other dental appliances, people can:

  • follow any specific instructions from a dentist on brushing, flossing, and caring for the appliance
  • avoid hard, chewy, or overly sticky foods, as these could damage the brace
  • avoid chewing ice, with or without braces
  • attend all scheduled checkups and cleaning appointments

If people think they have buck teeth or are experiencing any problems of the mouth or jaw, they can consult a dentist or orthodontist for an examination. These specialists can examine the teeth and jaw to look for any misalignment and suggest any necessary treatments.

Protruding front teeth, or buck teeth, describe a misalignment of the teeth, where the top row overlaps the bottom. This dental malocclusion can cause health problems, such as jaw pain, headaches, tooth decay, and difficulty chewing.

People may require treatment depending on the severity of the protrusion and symptoms. Treatment options can include braces, retainers, or in some cases, surgery. Over time, these methods will move the teeth into the correct position.