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Preventing Overjet or Overbite in Children

little girl with braces
Creative Commons Image: Monica Y Garza

While teeth placement is often a matter of heredity and skeletal structure, sometimes parents can use specific strategies to avoid the need for orthodontics later. One example of a malocclusion that can sometimes be prevented is that of an overjet, sometimes called an overbite. This is when the top front teeth stick out, which is sometimes referred to as “buck teeth.” Here are a few facts about how you can (and can’t) prevent this type of overbite.


If you have a toddler who sucks his or her thumb, you can relax. Most children outgrow the behavior by the time it can do any damage to their teeth. Most dentists agree that thumbsucking up until the 5th birthday is not a problem. Once a child is 5 years old, however, sucking the thumb or a finger can begin to change the palate and how the front teeth come together.

If your baby or toddler is thumbsucking, you can safely ignore it for now. If you have a preschooler who is still sucking his or her thumb, you can talk to the pediatrician or your dentist about how to begin to gently discourage the behavior so that it’s discontinued before your little one is ready to go off to kindergarten. An older child sucking his or her thumb might be a candidate for an appliance or other measures to help break the habit.


Some children who have an overjet bite thrust their tongues forward when they swallow. This is a habit that isn’t usually apparent until and unless it begins to affect the teeth. Regular dental visits will help catch the habit early, when an appliance to discourage the involuntary habit can be placed on your child’s palate for a period of time, until the tongue-thrusting stops.

Early Intervention

Some dentists prefer to wait on orthodontics until the child is a preteen or teenager, and others want to start early. If your child is developing an overjet, talk to your dentist or orthodontist about ways to minimize it now, if recommended. Sometimes a palatal expander is needed to widen the upper palate; this is a process that is easier and more effective when the child is younger and the bones and cartilage are softer.

Begin taking your child to the dentist during toddlerhood so potential problems can be nipped in the bud when possible. If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s occlusion or any other facets of his or her dental health, please call the office.

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