The visual benefits of straightening teeth are amazing, they are usually not the initial reason that orthodontics would be recommended by a dental professional. Believe it or not, straightening the teeth has a wide variety of other health benefits including reduced cracks in the teeth, preventing jaw pain and fighting gum disease.
Straight Teeth and Your Bite
Your bite is how the teeth come together. If you ever look at a natural tooth close up you will see it is not perfectly flat, there are many bumps, valley and grooves. These grooves and bumps are supposed to fit together like puzzle pieces to bring the bite, the teeth and jaw all into harmony. Unfortunately, most people do not have teeth that naturally come together in this way. Most teeth come together in a way where a bump may land on another bump causing stress which over time can create cracks in the teeth. This stress also wears on the jaw over time, which can cause popping, clicking and even headaches.
The good news is once we move the top and bottom teeth into the best relationship with one another; they will come together in such a way that does not cause any stress, strain, cracks, jaw problems or headaches. In the dental field we call this an ideal bite, which is the ultimate goal of all teeth straightening or orthodontics. I have had many patients who saw a dramatic improvement in jaw issues, headaches, neck aches, tooth cracks and tooth sensitivity once their teeth were in the proper relationship.
Straight Teeth and Your Gum Disease
Many times patient are surprised to hear that orthodontics has anything at all to do with gum disease. The reality is that the way the teeth come together plays a huge role not only in how a patient is able to brush and floss at home, but how much bacteria gets stuck in between teeth on a daily basis. When teeth are crowded, misaligned and crooked, it is almost impossible for a person to get them completely clean at home. The result is that day after day, year after year, the bacteria stuck between these crooked teeth produce acid as their waste product. In essence, they are going to the bathroom on our teeth! This acidic waste product eats away at tooth enamel causing cavities but also results in gum infection. Once the gums are infected by these bacteria and in a state of gum disease, they begin to pull away from the source of infection, the crooked teeth. This results in a process known as recession, wherein the gums recede from their natural spot on the teeth. Unfortunately, the jaw bone follows the gums and we start to see the jaw bone pulling away as well. This loss of jaw bone, if left unchecked, can eventually lead to tooth loss.
Unfortunately, gum disease is constituted as an irreversible disease process. This means that once you have it, it is not going away. The reason for this is because although the gums can heal and the infection can be fought, the jaw bone can never grow back leaving the patient more susceptible to bacterial attack than they used to be when the bone was in its proper position.
Straight Teeth and Recession
In addition to contributing to tooth loss, recession also can cause severe tooth sensitivity in certain patients. The enamel is the strongest part of the body, one third stronger than bone, but enamel only covers the crown of the tooth and once the gums begin to recede they expose the root of the tooth which is not covered by enamel. The root of the tooth is covered by cementum, which is much softer than enamel. When the gums recede this cementum is exposed to everything we eat, including cold foods and liquids. This cementum, in some patients, is extremely cold and pressure sensitive and these patients usually struggle with sensitivity off and on for the rest of their lives.
For these reasons and many more dental professionals are regularly recommending that patients consider straightening their teeth. We have found that it is a lot easier to prevent problems such as recession, gum disease and tooth cracking by straightening the teeth than to treat them after the fact. So the next time your dental professional asks if you have ever thought about straightening, don’t take it to mean we don’t think you your smile looks great. We just want to give you the most ideal biting relationship possible in order to help keep your teeth and gums healthy and your smile looking amazing for a lifetime.