Recently, a patient asked me, “Why are you always suggesting I straighten my teeth?”
This patient has had crooked teeth all his life, and his misalignment and imperfect smile don’t bother him. After all, he told me, he is happily married and has a great job, so what’s the point of spending money on braces?
After this conversation, I concluded that we dental professionals are not doing a very effective job of educating our patients on the health benefits of straight teeth. Straight teeth are about so much more than a pretty smile.
Not that appearance isn’t valuable. A perfect smile can raise self-esteem and create a great first impression, which may increase your confidence levels in your professional and personal life.
But while self-esteem is important, there are also some serious health reasons to have your teeth straightened. Some of these may surprise you:
- Periodontitis: People who have crooked teeth are at much greater risk for tooth decay, gum disease (or periodontitis) and tooth loss. In fact, almost everyone who has crooked teeth has some gum disease. The reason? Misaligned teeth are more difficult to clean, which can lead to plaque buildup – and plaque is the cause of decay and gum disease.
- Heart disease and stroke: According to some studies, including one by the National Institutes of Health, the oral bacteria that cause plaque also may contribute to heart disease and stroke. More research is needed to prove cause and effect, but it’s thought that oral bacteria release toxins or travel into the bloodstream, helping cause plaque buildup in the arteries.
- Diabetes: Diabetics usually know they are more prone to periodontitis and must take diligent care of their teeth and gums, but now studies indicate the reverse could also be true: The inflammation associated with gum disease may play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. The research into this link is continuing.
- Tooth breakage: If your teeth are misaligned, they are more likely to chip or break. Protruding front teeth, or “buck teeth,” are especially prone to breaking.
- Traumatic occlusion: This is a dental term for teeth that hit too hard at the wrong angles. Chewing with teeth that are not properly aligned can cause notching of the teeth, gum recession and the loss of bone surrounding the teeth. Once traumatic occlusion starts, we know the patient will spend many hours in our office getting fillings, crowns and root canals, and even having teeth extracted. Two medical problems that can occur with traumatic occlusion are chronic headaches or neck pain.
- Digestive problems: A bad bite can lead to ineffective chewing. Improperly processing your food could lead to digestive difficulties.
- Poor speech: Misaligned teeth can affect speech patterns, and straightening your teeth could correct them.
There are several options for straightening your teeth, but our office believes Invisalign, or clear braces, is the best. Invisalign corrects your bite using a series of clear plastic trays that are practically invisible. These trays can be removed so that you can eat and clean your teeth properly. I wrote a previous post on the benefits of Invisalign.
For a consultation on whether Invisalign would benefit your bite or smile, please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-961-8454.