Young children (ages 6-10) with severely protruded upper front teeth, commonly called “buck teeth,” are at increased risk for dental trauma and may benefit from an orthodontic correction, according to a study published recently in the American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics*. The study found that approximately 1 in 3 children who were treated for severely protruding teeth were less likely to experience dental trauma (such as a chipped, broken or knocked out permanent tooth).
“Active children who play organized sports or love the playground and who have severely protruding teeth may benefit from early intervention by an orthodontist,” says Morris N. Poole, DDS, president of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO).
“Youngsters with protruding teeth don’t have adequate lip coverage to protect their teeth from a blow or a fall. The result of losing or damaging a front tooth in childhood becomes a lifelong problem. We only get one set of permanent teeth, and the corrective measures to restore or replace a broken or lost tooth can be expensive, and likely will need to be repeated over the course of a lifetime.”
According to the study, protruding teeth occur in about 15 percent of children ages 12 – 15 in the U.S. and is one of the most common problems treated by orthodontists. Early intervention (before adolescence) is warranted in some cases, say the study’s authors. The AAO recommends that all children get a check-up with an orthodontist no later than age 7. If a check-up reveals a child will need orthodontic treatment at some point, the orthodontist will be able to recommend the most appropriate treatment at the most appropriate time.
“Protruding front teeth cause other problems for children. The ‘bite’ — the manner in which the upper and lower teeth meet — may be improper, and make it difficult for a child to bite food or to chew properly. The condition can interfere with speech for some individuals. And there’s an emotional toll, too, for children who may be bullied because of their teeth,” says Dr. Poole. “Interceptive treatment addresses the immediate protrusion problem. Parents need to know that most patients will require a second phase of treatment after most or all of their permanent teeth are in to move teeth into their final, optimal positions.”
“Parents should also understand that children go through what we call an ‘ugly duckling’ phase, when permanent teeth begin to emerge and seem too large or appear to be spaced incorrectly,” Dr. Poole says. “Most children will ‘grow into’ their teeth and go through this phase without the need for orthodontic treatment. But for those children whose teeth protrude significantly, I recommend parents take their child to an orthodontist for an evaluation.”
*Thiruvenkatachari, Badri; Harrison, Jayne; Worthington, Helen; O’Brien, Kevin. “Early orthodontic treatment for Class II malocclusion reduces the chance of incisal trauma: Results of a Cochrane systematic review.” American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics 2015 July; 148:47-59