It’s a question that dentists get asked all the time: “Does my child need braces?” Parents are often concerned that their children’s teeth aren’t straight, whether from gaps, crowding, or other reasons. Displaying an even smile is an esthetic ideal that most people want for themselves and their children. The “need” for orthodontic treatment is usually driven by the desire to achieve this ideal.
But is orthodontics truly necessary? What if you’re not overly concerned about a flashy white smile? Is it just about vanity?
The truth is that crooked teeth are dangerous to more than just the ego. It’s about so much more than having the perfect smile. Malocclusion, or improperly aligned teeth, affects 74% of American adults. Quite often the answer is “Yes! Your child DOES need orthodontic treatment.” Or maybe you do. Let’s take a look at why malocclusion can be harmful and why orthodontics matters.
Straight Teeth Resist Gum Disease
Bacteria love crowded, misaligned teeth. They love hiding out beyond the reach of your toothbrush and floss. The more crowded your teeth, the more difficulty you will have removing destructive bacterial plaque. As plaque attaches to your tooth surface, it invades below the gums and causes inflammation. Eventually, the tissue degrades and can result in bone loss. This condition is called periodontitis, and it’s the most common reason adults lose their teeth.
Periodontitis is a progressive condition. As bone loss around teeth deepens, bacteria invade further beyond detection and treatment. Teeth become loose and often develop abscesses. One of the more sinister aspects of periodontitis is the role it can play in heart disease. Research has shown that periodontitis can contribute to hardening of the arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Aligned, uncrowded teeth eliminate those unreachable areas where bacteria can thrive. It also improves your dental hygienist’s ability to provide excellent preventive care.
Reduce Trauma and Tooth Wear
Teeth were designed by nature to fit seamlessly together, with upper and lower jaws integrating to chew and perform other functions. But there’s often a big difference between nature’s design and what we actually get.
Disorders of the bite come in a variety of forms: overbite, underbite, edge-to-edge bite, open bite, crossbite, etc. It’s not necessarily important to know what all of these mean, but it is important to know that all of them can lead to premature chipping and tooth wear, as well as bite pain and headaches. Excessive forces on teeth can also negatively affect bone health, increasing the risk of periodontitis.
When teeth are misaligned, our jaws often adapt to a style of biting that makes us unaware that there is a problem. Damage to the teeth and jaw joints can occur slowly. In many cases, destruction is permanent or requires expensive restorative treatment to repair.
It’s Not Just For Kids
While many problems can be corrected through orthodontic therapy at a young age, it may not be too late if you missed out. More adults than ever before are experiencing the benefits of treatment, even in their later years.
Whether you choose braces or clear “invisible” aligners, you can likely improve the outlook of your oral and overall health through orthodontic treatment. We can provide a detailed assessment of your bite and determine your level of risk for tooth damage and disease. And even if you just want that straight smile because it looks good...well, why not?