Getting orthodontic work can vastly improve your appearance but is it the only reason for you to see an orthodontist? Evidently not.
An orthodontist will not only align your teeth, they will evaluate your orofacial structure and use different procedures to make sure everything functions as well as possible. Elements such as the facial muscles, jaws, and surrounding bones work together in a system, so they all need to be considered during orthodontic treatment. At Smiles Orthodontics, we place our patient’s individual needs and well-being first when we recommend any type of braces or clear aligners. As you can see, orthodontic procedures are not purely superficial, they greatly contribute to your dental and overall health!
Misaligned teeth can potentially actually lead to major health complications if they’re left untreated for too long. An orthodontist can get a deeper look at your oral health and assess whether there are any present or developing problems. The American Association of Orthodontists even recommends getting an orthodontic evaluation as early as 7 years old; however, if you’ve missed this window of time, it’s never too late see an orthodontist.
Below are common problems that can be fixed with braces. See an orthodontist if you believe you may be affected by any of them.
Compromised Oral Hygiene
Crooked, crowded, or gapped teeth may actually be to blame for bad oral hygiene. No matter how often or how long you spend brushing and flossing, it can be impossible to get your teeth squeaky clean if they aren’t properly aligned. Here’s what could be getting in the way of your dental health:
There’s nothing inherently wrong with gapped teeth, but if they become difficult to clean or maintain, that can become a problem. Having spaced out teeth can make it easy for food to get stuck in between crevices, creating an environment for bacteria to thrive and damage teeth. Large gaps can also reduce the space needed for other teeth to develop properly, leading to crowding.
Usually, gapped teeth are simply a product of genetics, but in some circumstances, they can be developed artificially, whether on purpose or not. Habits like prolonged tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, or use of the bottle can push the teeth to grow with a gap.
Our doctors can gradually tighten the teeth to eliminate gaps. For teeth that are too small to be close the space, a cosmetic procedure like dental veneers may be recommended by the orthodontist.
Crowded teeth can also affect your ability to brush your teeth! When don’t have enough space, they are more likely to jut out and grow at odd angles and positions. This can make them overlap, making it hard to brush the entire surface of each tooth when brushing or flossing. Leaving any sugar particles or food debris on the teeth can leave your teeth vulnerable to plaque buildup and cavities.
A side effect of crowded teeth is impacted teeth, which is potentially more dangerous. An impacted tooth is one that is poised to erupt but gets stuck in the gums because there is no space to emerge. Impacted teeth can damage other teeth if they begin to grow into them. They’re also more likely to cause gum disease or infection because they are difficult to clean.
Orthodontists are trained in dentofacial orthopedics or the practice of predicting and guiding the growth of teeth. Interceptive orthodontic treatment is a way to align the jaw and facial structure for children before adult teeth grow in for children, so there is enough space for permanent teeth to develop properly. Impacted teeth can easily be prevented with this method.
If you are past the age where this treatment is viable, braces can still help! The orthodontist can reposition the teeth, so there is enough space for an impacted tooth to emerge freely. Extraneous teeth that are causing the crowding can also be removed without negatively affecting the jaw and teeth.
Most breathing problems are caused by allergies, asthma, or sinus issues, but it’s possible that your breathing problems could stem from your crooked teeth, too. Believe it or not, a narrow or constricted palate can make it difficult to breathe. The air passageway can also be affected by a misaligned jaw if the jaw is pushing against the joints in the mouth, especially when lying down.
Though a speech impediment certainly isn’t life-threatening, it can be annoying if keeps you from communicating as clearly as you would like. Though it’s not always the case, gapped teeth, open bites, and malocclusions can alter the way a person pronounces certain sounds or letters. For those who don’t know, an open bite occurs when the teeth don’t meet even when the mouth is shut. Talk to a speech pathologist along with your orthodontist if you have a speech impediment you want to fix. It’s possible that braces could be the answer!
One of the more serious side effects of crooked teeth is bruxism. Many cases of teeth grinding have no definitive cause, but the general consensus is that it can be aggravated by sleep apnea, stress or an abnormal bite. When teeth aren’t aligned correctly, the pressure can be unevenly distributed in the mouth, naturally leading to teeth grinding or bruxism. Frequent and severe bruxism can wear down your enamel, leaving teeth vulnerable to cavities. It can also damage your joints and even cause headaches. The orthodontist can correct your bite to reduce the impulse to grind teeth, but we also recommend seeing a dentist for a mouth guard or sleep mask to ensure the habit stops.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
Damage to the temporomandibular joint from bruxism or any other reason is called Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, also known as TMD. This happens when the joint that connects the jaw to the temporal bone and allows the mouth to open and close freely is damaged by arthritis, trauma, mouth clenching, or an incorrect bite. TMD is characterized by:
- Headaches or pain near the temporal area and ears
- Soreness in the jaw
- Locking of the joint or difficulty opening the mouth
- Clicking or popping sound when opening the mouth
Orthodontic treatment can prevent and fix this problem by realigning the jaw where it needs to be for a correct bite. Once teeth are positioned correctly, the temporomandibular joint will shift into optimal alignment as well and less pressure will be placed on it.
Even if your teeth are perfectly straight, you may still need orthodontic treatment if your jaw is misaligned. Not all cases of misaligned jaw exhibit symptoms, but they can eventually lead to headaches, ear pain, vertigo, difficulty sleeping breathing problems, excessive tooth wear, and pain when chewing.
A misaligned jaw can’t always be identified by the naked eye. An orthodontist is trained to use professional tools, like x-rays and intraoral photography, to get an in-depth understanding of the bone structure and underlying problem. From there, they will be able to create a custom plan to move the jaw into the correct position without disturbing other parts of the system.
Having misaligned teeth and jaws can increase your propensity for a mouth injury. The jaws, teeth, muscles, and other bones in your face work in a delicate system. If the jaws aren’t positioned correctly, one small injury could affect your whole face. If you participate in contact sports, there’s a higher chance of serious trauma in the event of an accident. Unless you have a custom made mouthguard, it can also be difficult to find mouthguards or protective equipment if your teeth are oddly positioned. Talk to your dentist or orthodontist about getting protective equipment for your teeth when playing sports.
For anyone who feels self conscious about their appearance (most of us), misaligned teeth can lead to a loss of confidence, negative body perception, and at worst, mental health issues. How we look certainly isn’t the only factor that contributes to our self esteem, but it’s undeniable that it does affect us. Crooked teeth, decayed teeth, and speech impediments can all influence a person’s self image and not necessarily in a positive way. At Smiles Ortho, we believe all patients, no matter how they look, deserve to be comfortable and confident with their smile.
It’s clear that your teeth and jaws play an important part in your life, so you should take care of them! Only by seeing an orthodontist will you be able prevent or treat health problems caused by misaligned teeth and jaws. Even if you decide not to go through with any orthodontic treatment, it’s important to learn about your body and how to best care for it. At Smiles Orthodontics, our orthodontist will correct your teeth for your long-term health as well as aesthetic purposes. Feel free to give a call if you have any questions!