Are straighter teeth essential for optimal dental and overall health? Look at Keira Knightly, one of many actresses who made a career of flaunting their unique, imperfect smiles.
The answer is… like with many health-related questions… it depends. Well aligned teeth are more self-cleaning, accumulate less bacteria and are easier to clean. So, for some crooked teeth can cause dental health problems or even increase the risk of certain medical issues. For others a slightly crooked smile is quirky and acceptable, with no medical reason to change anything. The critical factor is the ability to keep the teeth plaque free. Here’s the breakdown:
Dental health risks associated with crooked teeth
Increases the risk of gum disease and tooth decay
Brushing and flossing regularly is the gold standard for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. When your teeth are straight and properly aligned, they’re easier to maintain. When your teeth are crooked, it’s harder to brush and floss and reach all the nooks and crannies inside your mouth.
Not doing a thorough job can lead to a variety of dental health problems. Bacteria build up on the teeth, producing acid which can lead to decay. The plaque also causes inflammation which may lead to gum recession and bone loss. This exposes more root surface to possible decay and means there’s more tooth to keep clean. Often this newly exposed root surface is difficult to access leading to more inflammation and recession.
There are advantages to getting your teeth straightened while you’re still young. As you get older, your jawbone becomes narrower and your teeth become more crowded. With less room to maneuver, it takes more time and effort to brush and floss thoroughly. To complicate things further, our hand mobility also decreases with age, making it even more difficult to maintain your oral health. Getting your teeth straightened at this later stage of life is usually not an option. Braces are a great choice for younger people, whose teeth and gums are strong enough to hold them.
Bacteria in the mouth is the number one cause of bad breath. No matter how diligent you are with brushing and flossing, bacteria can build up in crowded areas.
Research has shown that gum disease not only affects your mouth, the bacteria can trigger inflammation in the heart’s vessels and infect the valves.
Contributes to Sleep Apnea
Certain malocclusions have been linked to Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The shape of the mouth, throat and tongue can contribute to this condition. In some cases, an improperly aligned jaw can cause the tissues of the mouth to block the airway and create an obstruction.
Susceptibility to injury
Teeth that are exposed or protruding can chip or crack more easily than teeth that are in proper alignment. When teeth are misaligned, uneven wear and uneven pressure can occur, leading to more serious problems.
What are your options for straighter teeth?
Straightening your teeth can be easy and affordable. Treatment can take anywhere from a few months to two years depending on the extent of tooth movement and the type of braces you choose.
- Metal braces Fixed metal braces are attached to the teeth with brackets, bands, and flexible wire. These braces may be a better choice for someone with more complex dental alignment issues.
- Ceramic braces Ceramic braces and the wires that connect them are clear or tooth-colored so they don’t stand out as much as metal brackets.
- Clear Aligners Clear aligners such as Invisalign, are nearly invisible. The clear plastic aligners are custom-made to fit your mouth. They fit snugly over the teeth and are replaced every one to two weeks.
- Lingual braces The lingual surface is the side of your teeth that faces your tongue. Lingual braces are another form of invisible braces. They’re similar to traditional metal braces except that they attach to the back sides of your teeth and treatment often takes longer than traditional braces.
So is it okay to have crooked teeth?
Your dentist is the best person to evaluate whether or not your crooked teeth are a dental health hazard, an esthetic issue or a quirky feature you would like to hold onto.Slightly crooked teeth might not create issues, especially if you’re happy with your smile. But keep in mind, a crowded mouth means setting aside more time to brush and floss to get into all the hidden nooks and crannies that are obstructed from view.