Ever wondered if there was something more to those perfectly straight smiles? As it turns out, there is. Aside from being easy on the eyes, straight teeth also clear up any issues that are seemingly unrelated to oral health. For instance, did you know that correcting your dental alignment could save you many neck pain and chronic headaches? Or that a straight set of teeth could prevent a nasty case of periodontal disease? But how are these benefits of a straight smile possible?
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.
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.
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.
Can Malocclusion Be Corrected?
The answer is a definite yes. Both mild and major misalignment problems are fixable. However, the worse the malocclusion, the longer the treatment.
Metal braces are typically the best method of malocclusion treatment. Folks with mild malocclusion may qualify for Invisalign or other clear aligners to fix their problem. See an orthodontist for a consultation to decide which treatment is best for you and your case.
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.
Your best bet with any tooth misalignment problem is to have an orthodontist check it out. They may refer you to specific treatments that may be necessary to maintain your top-notch oral health.
Mild cases may be fine without treatment, but more severe cases will benefit from such, particularly in how the teeth can be maintained.