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Protruding front teeth is one of those orthodontic issues that’s easy to spot. And, thankfully, it’s also an issue that a board-certified orthodontist like Dr. Clay VanderWall can easily correct. Also called “buck teeth”, protruding front teeth are a common problem in children and adults alike and at VanderWall Orthodontics, we offer a variety of treatments to correct it. Whether with braces, or clear aligners like Invisalign/ Invisalign® Teen or 3M Clarity Aligners™, you’ll be glad to know that we can fix protruding teeth. Newly-aligned teeth will function better, improve how your smile looks and most likely give you a boost of confidence. 

So let’s dive in and talk about buck teeth. In this post, Dr. VanderWall will answer:

  • What are buck teeth?
  • What causes them?
  • What complications can you have because of them?
  • How do the different treatment options work?

So What are Buck Teeth?

It’s safe to say that buck teeth are an orthodontic issue most of us are familiar with. Protruding front teeth are a type of malocclusion (misaligned bite) called “overbite” where your upper front teeth stick out past your lower front teeth. You might also notice that the upper jaw is farther forward than the lower jaw. You might be wondering, what if the protruding teeth flare out on an angle? If they do, this is called “overjet teeth.” You can have both an overbite and overjet at the same time. Protruding teeth can range from mild to severe and worsen over time if not treated by orthodontics.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that in a well-aligned bite, it’s common for the upper jaw to sit a bit more forward than the lower jaw. However, a bite is considered an “overbite” when teeth don’t stack together like a puzzle, and, in the case of protruding teeth, your front teeth sit far past the lower teeth.

What Causes Buck Teeth?

There are a few reasons for protruding teeth, but the two most common causes are your genes and prolonged infant habits. If your protruding teeth are genetic, someone else in your family — your parents, grandparents, a close relative — might also show signs of buck teeth or overbite (or had them fixed by an orthodontist in the past!). With infant habits, the alignment of permanent teeth and jaws can be affected if a child doesn’t outgrow habits like thumbsucking and tongue thrust.


Just like eye color, hair color, or which hand you write with, your facial bone structure — including the size and alignment of your jaws — is an inherited trait. So, front teeth can naturally grow outward on their own, and a narrow jaw can also contribute, crowding teeth together and pushing front teeth forward. Crowding can also cause another common issue: protruding upper canine teeth. This is when the canines — the teeth two over from the upper front teeth — stick out from the teeth around them. Orthodontic treatment can bring these teeth back into alignment.

Baby Habits That Persist into Childhood

Protruding teeth can happen as a result of infant habits that have extended too far into early childhood. Don’t get us wrong, a baby peacefully sucking their thumb or pacifier is cute and it’s a helpful aid for self soothing. A little later, tongue thrust becomes an important reflex for babies learning how to eat solid foods — it prevents them from choking on too much puree! These infant reflexes aren’t bad in and of themselves. On the contrary, they’re a normal and necessary part of infant development.

But when a child is still sucking on fingers or pushing their tongue against their teeth when they’re three, four, or in elementary school, these habits might cause their permanent front teeth to stick out once they’ve erupted.

On that note, we suggest bringing in your child for a first orthodontic visit to our Raleigh, Durham, or Cary office around age 7. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that kids have their first orthodontic visit around this age because their first adult teeth have already come in and their jaw shape is pretty much set. At this point, Dr. VanderWall can see how a child’s adult teeth are growing in, and if protruding teeth or misaligned jaws need early interceptive treatment. If not, Dr. VanderWall can monitor your child’s oral development as they grow, and begin orthodontic treatment later on when it’s needed.

What Problems Can Protruding Teeth Cause?

Let’s be honest. Protruding teeth can bring a lack of confidence in your smile or a feeling of embarrassment about how your teeth look. If you don’t smile much because of protruding teeth, you could be missing out on its health benefits. Yes, you might be surprised to know that smiling is shown to have positive impacts on your social wellness and mental health!

Buck teeth also affects how well your teeth function and, in turn, impede your overall health. If left untreated, protruding teeth can cause:

Problems with mouth closure

This might not sound that bad, but if buck teeth are preventing you from closing your mouth completely, this can make your lower jaw recede and continue to misalign.

The inability to close your mouth can also encourage mouth breathing. At night, mouth breathing often comes with problems like sleep apnea and snoring. One study shows that chronic nighttime mouth breathing can contribute to poor sleep which in turn leads to less-than-optimum daytime functioning. In kids, this lack of sleep can show up as daytime sleepiness, an inability to concentrate, and, in some cases reported, a misdiagnosis of ADHD.

Difficulties chewing and speaking

When teeth protrude, it can be harder to chew food efficiently, which can then affect the digestive process and your daily well-being. And though it’s safe to say that the alignment of back teeth is more important for breaking down food, protruding front teeth can make eating a frustrating task. Think about biting into a sandwich, a slice of pizza, or an apple. 

Having a hard time chewing can mean you avoid certain foods or limit what you eat. It might even take the enjoyment out of food or social events like having a meal with friends. And for kids (and their parents!), protruding teeth can make food a frustrating part of daily life — it’s hard enough getting some kids to eat a healthy diet! So any limitations they have with chewing could affect their overall nutrition and relationship with food.  

Protruding teeth can also cause speech problems such as lisping, whistling or mispronunciations of certain consonants. For adults and kids alike, these speech issues can make daily communication a struggle. It’s often suggested that orthodontic treatment go hand-in-hand with speech therapy to improve any issues.

Increased chance of tooth injury

Because teeth stick out, they are more prone to trauma if you fall down or if you play sports. The rest of your mouth might also experience more injury, like uneven wear or cracked teeth. If you have a misaligned bite, there’s more likelihood of biting your tongue or the inside of your cheeks, too. 

The team at VanderWall Orthodontics has also seen a fair share of patients who have tooth injuries from excessive tooth grinding or jaw clenching. And sometimes bruxism, as it’s called, is because a patient is unconsciously trying to align their misaligned their teeth.

How to Correct Protruding Front Teeth?

As a board-certified orthodontist, Dr. VanderWall is experienced in assessing and treating protruding teeth with braces and clear aligner treatment. At VanderWall Orthodontics, your smile transformation can happen with modern metal braces, clear ceramic braces or InBrace® lingual braces. Or, if you prefer the advantages of clear aligners, we offer Invisalign/Invisalign Teen and 3M Clarity Aligners. Everyone is different, so our treatments are customized to your specific smile needs.


Braces are a tried-and-true method for straightening teeth. After all, they’ve been around since the early 1800s! Rest assured, however, today’s braces technology has come a long way since then. Today’s discreet, smaller braces are even a step up from the braces of a generation ago. The metal braces, ceramic braces, and InBrace lingual (behind-the-teeth) braces we have at VanderWall Orthodontics are even more evolved from the ones your parents had when they were young.

To correct protruding teeth, braces create pressure on teeth to bring them into their intended alignment. Dr. VanderWall places each bracket according to how it should guide the archwire, and the archwire is curved into the exact shape your final smile will be. Between the two — the brackets and the archwire — your front teeth are gradually moved into position over a period of, on average, 18 months.

Braces not only straighten protruding teeth but do the necessary job of aligning the jaws as well. Elastics provide the extra pressure needed for jaw alignment, and many of our patients take the opportunity to make braces fun and complement their personality with colorful elastics.

Clear Aligners: Invisalign, Invisalign Teen and 3M Clarity Aligners

Many patients wonder, “Can Invisalign fix protruding teeth?” Yes, depending on the severity of your case, a clear aligner treatment like Invisalign, Invisalign Teen or 3M Clarity Aligners can work wonders for correcting buck teeth in the expert hands of a certified orthodontist like Dr. VanderWall. Clear aligner treatment is an option for those who want discreet, convenient straightening without wires or brackets.

Typically, there needs to be space in the jaw for protruding teeth to move into as they align. If there isn’t, surgery to remove a premolar can make room. Everyone’s case is different so the first step is coming in for a free initial consultation so Dr. VanderWall can examine, diagnose, and talk with you about a personalized treatment plan.

Once you have your clear aligners, you need to wear them for no less than 22 hour a day. Take them out only to eat, when drinking anything other than water, and when cleaning your teeth. It’s a good idea to rinse your clear aligners with water before putting them back in to wash away any food debris or stuck-on sugar. 

Be sure to clean your Invisalign or Clarity Aligners at least once a day with a soft toothbrush and warm water. Then give them a rinse and put them back in! 

Say “Good Bye” to Buck Teeth With VanderWall Orthodontics

It’s safe to say that protruding teeth after braces or clear aligner treatment becomes a thing of the past. If you’re ready to transform your smile, contact us at VanderWall Orthodontics today. We can align your protruding teeth with high quality, personalized orthodontic care at a fair price. As your Raleigh, Durham, and Cary orthodontist, we’ll help you achieve the functional, beautiful smile you’ve always wanted.

Dr. Clay VanderWall

Author Dr. Clay VanderWall

Dr. VanderWall attended Kalamazoo College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences. He spent a semester doing research at the Dental Research Center of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he wrote his Senior Individualized Project (SIP). He furthered his studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Dentistry, receiving his Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1999. He graduated with honors and was inducted into the national dental honor society, Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU). He also received the Pierre Fauchard Academy Student Award and was a recipient of the Health Professions Scholarship from the United States Navy.

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