Having crooked or protruding teeth can affect the confidence of children, teenagers and adults, but a straight smile isn't only about appearance. If your teeth aren't properly aligned, this could also affect your oral health and general health, increase your risk of injuries and contribute to other conditions.
If you or someone in your family has crooked teeth or a bad bite, your dentist will discuss options such as braces or aligners to help bring your teeth and jaws into proper alignment. Here are 7 reasons why straight teeth are important and how orthodontics can help.
1. Improve oral health
Regular tooth brushing and flossing is vital for keeping your teeth and gums healthy, but it can be harder to clean teeth that are misaligned, crowded or have gaps. This means food can stay trapped in the crevices and bacteria can multiply, leading to dental diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease as well as infections of the mouth.
Straight teeth are easier to keep clean, since there are fewer spaces to trap food and bacteria. Orthodontic treatment may also improve blood flow to the gums, lowering the risk of gum problems.
Brushing your teeth with braces can take longer, because there are more surfaces where food and bacteria can get trapped. If you have removable aligners instead of braces, these can be taken out when cleaning your teeth and eating.
2. Lower general health risks
Straightening your teeth can have an impact beyond your mouth. Oral health problems such as gum disease and infections can contribute to health risks in other parts of the body, so improving your oral health can also lower your risk of developing problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
If crooked teeth make it hard to chew properly, this could also affect your diet. By bringing your teeth into alignment, you should be able to eat more comfortably, making it easier to follow a balanced diet and get the nutrition your body needs.
3. Lower risk of dental injuries
Poor oral hygiene can also make teeth weaker and more prone to damage than healthy teeth, whether that's from a sporting accident, falling over, biting something hard or other injuries.
Teeth that stick out are exposed to a greater risk of injury, especially those in the upper jaw. A misaligned bite can also put uneven pressure on the teeth, which could cause the enamel to crack or chip.
Straightening your teeth can reduce the chance of serious injuries and needing to see an emergency dentist. Wearing a sports mouthguard can also feel more comfortable and offer more effective protection if you have straight teeth.
4. Prevent jaw problems
If your teeth and jaws are out of alignment, this can put pressure on your teeth and the joints connecting your jaw to your skull (temporomandibular joints, or TMJ).
Symptoms of TMJ disorders can include pain or difficulty moving your jaw, clicking or popping sounds when you eat, chronic headaches and other pain or discomfort. This may be corrected through orthodontics or other TMJ treatments.
5. Prevent teeth grinding
Teeth that don't fit together normally are a common cause of teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism). This can cause teeth to wear down or get damaged over time and can contribute to TMJ disorders.
Orthodontic treatment could relieve the pressure on your teeth and jaws. Your dentist may also recommend other bruxism treatments, such as wearing a night guard when you sleep or therapeutic treatments to relieve stress.
6. Treat or manage sleep apnoea
An abnormal jaw position can sometimes cause breathing difficulties such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), when sleep is frequently disturbed. As well as causing tiredness, sleep apnoea can seriously affect health and wellbeing.
If your jaw position may be contributing to sleep apnoea, your dentist may recommend orthodontics or other sleep apnoea treatments.
7. Improve self-esteem
Beyond the health impact, having misaligned or protruding teeth can make people of all ages feel self-conscious and affect their confidence. This can affect children's academic and social development and may continue to affect their professional and personal lives as adults.
Straightening teeth isn't always a fix for self-esteem issues, and wearing braces can also make people feel self-conscious during their treatment. However, correcting orthodontic problems helps many people to feel more comfortable about their appearance in the long term.
How do I know if I need orthodontic treatment?
If you think that you or someone in your family could benefit from straightening your teeth, talk to your dentist. They can perform an orthodontic assessment to identify any problems and discuss appropriate treatments, or they may refer you to a specialist orthodontist.
Contrary to what many people think, orthodontics isn't just for teenagers. While these treatments can be most effective when the permanent teeth and jaws are still developing (around the age of 11 to 13), many adults and younger children (from the age of 8) can also benefit from orthodontics.
Types of bite problems
The most common reasons people choose orthodontic treatments are:
- Crooked teeth – misaligned or overlapping teeth may be harder to clean or affect your appearance
- Overbite – the top teeth extend too far over the bottom teeth
- Underbite – the lower teeth rest in front of the upper teeth, as the lower jaw is further forward
- Crossbite – a combination of overbite and underbite
- Protruding teeth – the top teeth stick out, as the upper jaw is further forward
- Crowded teeth – teeth are pushed together when there's not enough space in the jaw
- Spaces between teeth – wide gaps can make teeth harder to clean or affect speech and appearance
To diagnose an orthodontic issue, your dentist or orthodontist will examine your mouth and jaws. This may involve taking x-rays and impressions of your teeth. They can then discuss the treatment options that could help you.
What are the options?
Orthodontic treatment involves wearing an appliance over your teeth. This applies gentle pressure to guide your teeth and jaws into a straighter alignment.
Most people associate orthodontics with traditional braces, but depending on the type of bite problem you want to correct, you might be able to choose more discreet options.
Orthodontic braces use fixed brackets that are attached to the teeth. These are supported by wires and bands and shouldn't be removed until the treatment is complete.
Traditional metal braces apply the strongest force and may be needed to correct more severe bite problems. If your orthodontic issue is less severe, your dentist may offer a choice of clear braces, tooth-coloured ceramic braces or lingual braces that attach to the back of the teeth, making them less noticeable.
Invisalign® aligners and other 'invisible braces' are made from clear plastic that fits over the teeth while moving them into their new position. Each set of aligners should be replaced with a new set every few weeks until the treatment is complete.
Unlike braces, aligners can be removed to eat, drink and clean your teeth, but it's important not to remove them for more than 2 hours per day, as this could affect your results.
Children who are too young for braces could still benefit from removable plates. These are worn in the mouth and sit behind teeth to shift them gently into a new position. This could mean a child avoids wearing braces as a teenager, or their treatment time may be shortened.
Whichever orthodontic treatment you choose, it's recommended that you wear a retainer after the treatment is complete to make sure your teeth don't move back to their old position. Depending on your situation, a retainer may only need to be worn at night or all day.
What to expect from orthodontic treatment
Orthodontics usually takes 1 to 2 years to complete, depending on how much your teeth or jaw need to move and the treatment you choose. Some fast braces only take 6 months. During this time, you'll need to have regular check-ups with your dentist or orthodontist so they can monitor your progress, make adjustments to your braces or replace your aligners, and put your mind at ease about any worries.
Wearing braces for the first time can take a while to get used to. The force applied to your teeth may feel uncomfortable and your mouth will have to adjust when eating and speaking. Most people get used to their braces within a few weeks. If you still feel discomfort after this time, or your braces get damaged, contact your dentist or orthodontist right away.
The success of orthodontics depends on patient compliance. If you follow your dentist or orthodontist's instructions, you'll have the best chance of a successful outcome and straighter teeth. They'll explain what the treatment involves so you can make an informed decision about whether orthodontics is right for you and your lifestyle.
Find out more about orthodontics in Sydney CBD
Want to know more about braces, Invisalign treatment and other options to help straighten your smile? Book a consultation with our experienced dentists at Sydney CBD Dental today.
Better Health Channel. Orthodontic treatment [Online] 2019 [Accessed January 2020] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/orthodontic-treatment
Healthdirect. Orthodontic treatments [Online] 2019 [Accessed January 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/orthodontic-treatments