Q: My child’s teeth are protruding and it affects the way she closes her mouth. Is this normal? Will it change as she grows older?

In a normal set of teeth, the upper front teeth are positioned slightly in front of the lower teeth. When the upper front teeth are too far in front of the lower teeth, the teeth will appear protruded. Protruding teeth are caused by numerous factors, some of which are developmental while others are due to habits.

buck teeth in childrenPhoto: T32 Dental Centre

One cause of protruding teeth is an imbalance in the growth of the upper and lower jaws. When the upper jaw is large or when the lower jaw is small, the upper teeth will be positioned far in front of the lower teeth. If the upper jaw is protruding, headgears may be used to help control the growth of the upper jaw. If the lower jaw is small, it is sometimes possible to hold off treatment and wait for lower jaw growth to catch up. In other instances, orthodontic appliances may be helpful in guiding the growth of the lower jaw.

Another cause of protruding teeth is large tooth size. If the teeth are of larger size than normal, they take up more space and may appear protruded. In most cases, braces treatment may be required when the child has changed most of his teeth, usually from age eleven onwards.

Thumb sucking or pacifier use may also cause protruding upper teeth. The constant thumb or pacifier in the mouth hinders proper growth of the front teeth and causes the teeth to flare outwards. If the child has this habit, efforts should be made to cease the habit to prevent permanent changes to the arrangement of the teeth. Help the child understand why they have to stop the habit and offer constant encouragement and rewards. If the habit is stopped early enough, the teeth may spontaneously realign and no treatment will be needed. However, if the habit persists beyond age seven, there may be permanent protrusion of the teeth. These do not correct spontaneously, and usually require the use of orthodontic appliances to straighten the teeth.

This question was answered by Dr Boey Pui Yunn, Orthodontist at T32 Dental Centre.

Practice address:
Camden Medical Centre
One Orchard Boulevard, 17th Floor
Singapore 248649
Tel: (65) 6733 1388
Emergency Dental Services: (65) 6398 5578
Email: t32@t32dental.com

This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine.

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