The benefits of having straight teeth extend far beyond aesthetics. Here, orthodontic experts in Singapore explain how tooth alignment can affect our overall health.
Straight teeth means healthier, cleaner gums
When teeth are too widely spaced or crowded, they often become inflamed and red – signs of periodontal disease, an infection of the structures around the teeth, including the gums. Straightening your teeth helps the gums fit properly around them, and therefore creates the strongest possible protection against periodontal problems, which can range from mild redness, swelling of the gums (gingivitis) and bleeding when you brush to complete damage to the support structure of a tooth, and eventual tooth loss.
Of course, straight teeth means better cleaning and flossing abilities, too. “There’s evidence that individuals with poor alignment of teeth and jaws are unable to – and less motivated to – maintain a proper oral hygiene regimen,” says Dr Lim Hong Meng, orthodontist at Mount Elizabeth Orthodontic Clinic. “This will inevitably lead to periodontal disease, which is a silent, chronic disease. The cumulative detrimental effects on dental health are often not evident at the early stages and may take many years before the damage can be felt.”
Dr Joel Cooper, dentist and orthodontist at Expat Dental, agrees that cleaning rotated and crowded teeth can be more of a challenge; however, it doesn’t mean automatic gum inflammation and eventual periodontal disease. “Even very crooked teeth can usually be cleaned adequately; of course, the issue is whether, over a long period of time, one will stay committed to spending the extra effort,” he says. “There’s no doubt that well aligned teeth are easier to clean and maintain. The real issue is the presence of chronic inflammation – something that is being seen as increasingly dangerous as we know more about it.”
Straight teeth can help prevent abnormal tooth wear
Properly aligned teeth can also relieve the problems that stem from improper bite, speech or chewing difficulties, jaw problems and increased wear on the tooth enamel. According to Dr Boey Pui Yunn, Specialist Orthodontist at T32 Dental, “Some misaligned teeth contact in such a way that they wear each other down over time. This may lead to sensitivity and anaesthetic teeth shapes. Early correction will therefore prevent or at least minimise abnormal tooth wear.”
Straight teeth can positively impact your overall health
The ability to practice effective dental hygiene means you can remove bacteria before it becomes problematic not just for your oral health but your overall health, too; after all, an infection in your mouth can pass through your blood stream. So, what goes on in your mouth can affect the rest of your body – and, what goes on in your body can also affect your mouth!
Researchers are also exploring whether or not gum disease can increase the risk of various medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. However, more studies need to be done to determine the actual mouth-body connection, says Dr Cooper. According to a 2016 Harvard Health Publishing article, while people with periodontal disease have been found to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, pregnancy complications, and dementia, it is not yet known if periodontal disease actually causes these other problems, or if people with chronic health issues have more difficulty taking care of their teeth and gums. “It’s an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship,” says Dr Cooper. “But, inflammation, which plays a role in all these conditions, seems to be the link.”
That means your mental health, too
A crucial component of your overall health is, of course, your mental health. Studies have shown that having a better smile not only increases how much you smile, but also improves your confidence and lowers your stress levels.
“Our smile makes such a statement about us; it can give an indication of mood, approachability, life-view, even perhaps degree of self confidence and intellect,” says Dr Cooper. “It might not be fair to be judged on a smile alone, but first impressions do matter. When an individual or a parent invests the significant resources of time and money into a smile, it at least sends a signal that this person is cared for, either by family or that they care about themselves. Most patients view a beautiful smile as a commitment to a better future and to feeling more comfortable socially; for some, it becomes a ‘trademark’ of their personality.”
Dr Lim agrees that tooth alignment can greatly influence mental wellbeing. “One must not underestimate the adverse psychological impact an ugly set of teeth can have on children, especially during the teenage years,” he says. “We’ve encountered gross neglect of oral health and defiant attitudes in these children to any dental management if they perceive their set of teeth to be the source of ridicule by others. Even for adults, it’s amazing what a pleasing smile can do to self-confidence.”
Straightening solutions for everyone
“Despite the implications of the term ‘teeth straightening’, most of the indications for orthodontic management in children and adults aren’t purely aesthetic in nature,” says Dr Lim. “Proper alignment of the teeth and jaws is essential for achieving dental, medical and psychological health, as well as good oral functions such as speech and chewing.”
Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age, he says, as teeth can continue to be straightened in adulthood. And, with more aesthetically pleasing options like Invisalign, clear ceramic braces and lingual braces available, more and more adults are deciding to correct their teeth. According to Dr Lim, most adult patients choose the removable clear aligners over traditional fixed braces, though key factors like compliance and the complexity of the malocclusion must be taken into account when deciding on removable aligners versus fixed braces.
Dr Cooper agrees that orthodontic solutions have come a long way, with options available these days to suit anyone’s needs. “Over the past several years, we’ve seen the development of more options including expansion devices to address cross-bites and arch development, functional appliances to improve severe overbites and removable ‘retainer’-based applications,” he says. “Traditional braces have also become smaller and less aggressive in profile, and less irritating to soft tissue. Clear and tooth-coloured braces have become a very nice option, as well as ‘invisible’ snap-in or tray-based devices, though we caution about the use of those in young or teen patients due to compliance concerns.”
Ultimately, aligners cannot replace fixed braces (metal or ceramic) completely, especially in complex malocclusion cases, explains Dr Boey. “Invisible braces are a good option for less severe cases, provided that budget isn’t an issue,” she says. It’s a good idea to consult an orthodontist about the option that’s right for you.
T32 Dental Group
Like this? Read more at our health and fitness section: