Braces and Invisalign can help you if you have teeth that are crooked, find it difficult to floss around crowded teeth, have difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, or even frequently bite your tongue. The American Academy of Orthodontists recommend all children see an Orthodontist by 7 years old, since earlier treatments can improve the outcomes. Even children without visibly crooked teeth can benefit from a free orthodontic consultation.
What Do Crowded Teeth Affect?
Before we look at the benefits of a straight smile, let's first look into what happens when you have crowded teeth. Often called a malocclusion or a "bad bite," it's an apt name to give the condition. After all, when you have crowded teeth, the biting surfaces of your teeth don't come together correctly when you close your jaw. This misalignment can cause a slew of problems.
For one, it can hamper the way you eat. How you eat plays an essential role in your oral health. When you chew your food properly, you break down your food into small particles. This makes them not only easy to digest but easy to wash away as well so that you have a reduced chance of developing dental caries later on. And when you chew the right way, it also activates your salivary glands. The saliva secreted dissolves not only residual sugars but also remineralizes your teeth.
With crowded teeth, this becomes a little harder to do. Because the chewing surfaces don't precisely touch, it's more difficult to grind down the day's meal into tiny particles. When this happens, you're bound to find chunks of food lodged between your teeth.
Unfortunately, crowded teeth are also hard to clean. Because the teeth are at unnatural angles, they also produce little nooks and crannies that are near-impossible to floss or reach with a toothbrush. Everyone knows it takes longer to clean up misaligned teeth. And because they're so hard to clean, it wouldn't be a surprise if you give up on your dental hygiene routine altogether. And when you succumb to poor dental hygiene, you become more susceptible to periodontal disease and tooth decay as plaque continues to build up. Additionally, crowded teeth can:
Cause Headaches: Causing strain on the jaw joints, neck, and head area caused by a misaligned bite can certainly cause frequent headaches. An aligned jaw releases this strain and pressure, thus relieving headaches.
Lead to Uneven Wear of Teeth: Teeth that are not properly lined up are likely to slip and slide against one another when eating and speaking. The friction caused by this at unnatural angles can lead to uneven wear of the teeth over the course of time. With severely worn teeth comes difficulty in proper eating and results in a visually affected smile.
Lead to broken or cracked teeth: Speaking and eating with an improper bite and having the teeth scrape against one another in a way that is not normal can increase the risk of broken or cracked teeth. Dealing with these instances are not only painful, but they're also going to cost money to get professionally fixed, requiring an emergency dental appointment.
What is Occlusion?
Here’s a little experiment you can do with the kids—ask them to close their mouth, jaw shut. Then, ask them to smile while their teeth are still together. Take a good look at how their teeth align. Do their lower jaw and upper jaw line up? Do some teeth lean to the side or towards the front? When they bite down, do their molars match up? A healthy occlusion involves the teeth of your upper and lower jaw coming together in alignment. This position not only looks good, but it also serves two essential purposes:
- It allows you to chew food correctly, making it easier for your mouth to rid itself of plaque, and
- It enables you to speak properly, particularly words containing dental consonants.
What Causes Malocclusion?
Malocclusion is a tooth problem accompanied by a maleficent occlusion or alignment of the teeth. When the jaw is closed, the teeth are not correctly aligned. Alignment problems can result from an overbite, underbite, or crossbite.
The cause of malocclusion varies among individuals. The most common causes include thumbsucking, a jaw that is too small to house the amount or size of teeth present (often found in crossbite patients), or in folks with missing teeth as the teeth rearrange to try to fill in a missing gap.
Another common cause of tooth misalignment is smiling with one's tongue pressed against the top of the bottom of their teeth. This is what dentists refer to as "tongue thrusting." This is a bad habit that often develops in childhood. Regardless of when it develops, tongue thrusting should be eliminated as soon as possible to prevent malocclusion.
When Does Malocclusion Develop?
Malocclusion can develop at any stage of life. The thing to remember is that even permanent adult teeth can shift. This is why individuals at just about every age are great candidates for orthodontic treatment. However, note that even after one has an orthodontic treatment, teeth can still shift. This is why patients often wear retainers post-treatment.
Sucking and pressing are two common things that cause the teeth to shift. Tongue thrusting should be avoided.
Fixing Misaligned Teeth
The two most common methods to fix crooked teeth are metal braces and Invisalign. Metal braces, also called traditional braces, consist of brackets, bands, and wires. They apply gentle pressure on your teeth that, over time, causes them to shift in the desired position. There are three types of traditional braces:
- Metal braces. These are the most common type of braces. Kids can choose fun, bright colored bands.
- Clear or tooth-colored braces. Ceramic braces are the same size as metal braces, but use tooth colored brackets and braces that make them less noticeable.
- Lingual braces. Unlike regular braces, lingual braces are attached to the interior of the teeth, also making them less noticeable.
Invisalign uses a series of clear trays (also called aligners) to move teeth into the proper place. Slide the custom trays over your teeth and your teeth will slowly shift into position. You'll receive new trays every two weeks.
The Benefits of a Straight Smile
Aside from making your teeth more vulnerable to periodontal disease and the like, the stress from chewing with misaligned teeth can cause neck pain and chronic headaches. With crowded teeth, your jaw works double-time to process the food in your mouth, eventually overloading it. Because your jaw is connected to the trigeminal nerve (which handles the sensations of your whole face), pain in the jaw tends to cascade to other parts of your head. This pain causes chronic headaches and neck pain.
If crowded teeth bring about neck pain, chronic headaches, and periodontal disease, then a straight smile does the opposite. Here are some benefits of a straight smile:
- It's easier to chew your food.
- It takes less effort for your jaw to process the food, preventing any tension that can cause neck pain and chronic headaches.
- It's easier to clean your teeth, preventing plaque build-up that can cause periodontal disease or caries/cavities.
Correcting malocclusion involves realigning the teeth. Thus, this often allows for more comfortable brushing and flossing. When the teeth are not properly aligned, some find it a challenge to get between all crevices and regions of the teeth, especially in cases of overlapping teeth.
See an orthodontist for a consultation to decide which treatment is best for you and your case.