Nowadays many adults seek orthodontic treatment to improve the appearance of their smile – and who can blame them? It’s no secret that having crooked teeth can make you feel self-conscious, but there are also practical reasons for seeking orthodontic treatment from correcting tooth alignment issues to improving oral health – it’s not just about aesthetics.
Dental crowding is defined as a discrepancy between tooth and jaw size that results in a misalignment of the tooth row, typically in the lower arch. Perhaps your teeth are too large for your gums, you have extra teeth or an underdeveloped jaw bone – these are all possible reasons for your teeth to appear like they’re jostling for prime position.
Dental crowding is a common issue and the severity varies – approximately 30 to 60 percent of people have some sort of dental crowding issue. The good news is that with orthodontic treatment, dental crowding can be a simple fix.
Not only can correcting this type of misalignment straighten your teeth and improve the appearance of your smile, but it can also help to prevent common dental diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease (this is because the teeth that overlap are more difficult to clean).
Spacing (the opposite to dental crowding) is an excess of space which results in gaps between the teeth, commonly caused by thumb sucking as a child, microdontia (small teeth) or missing teeth.
Spacing commonly manifests as a large gap between the front two teeth (known as diastema) and is found in 50 – 60% of children – but it normally closes naturally by ages 8 – 9.
Even if your teeth gaps don’t bother you from an aesthetic point of view, it’s important to get the diastema checked by a dentist in case a condition like gum disease is the cause. Gaps in your teeth could also mean you have an improper bite which can lead to chipped or broken teeth.
Overjet and Overbite
We often treat patients with crooked teeth, but there are instances where dental problems stem from the way the upper and lower teeth align – the bite. Two common types of poor bites are overjet and overbite. These two conditions can be severe, but there are treatable.
Overjet teeth occur when the upper front teeth push outward – this condition is also known as “buck teeth.” Overbite, on the other hand, refers to a vertical misalignment between the upper and lower front teeth.
Either misalignment doesn’t only affect your appearance, but it can also cause you difficulty chewing, drinking, biting and can be quite painful.
Overjet can occur when you have an underdeveloped lower jawbone that causes your upper teeth to protrude further than they should. But genetics isn’t the only cause of this; an overjet can also form if you had a habit of sucking your thumb or fingers as a child.
Similarly, an overbite is more commonly caused by genetics. That said, a patient’s mouth could also be too large or too small to fit their teeth properly. Childhood habits including long-term pacifiers and thumb sucking that push the tongue against the back of the teeth can cause an overbite.
Whether you have an overjet or overbite, fixing these misalignments with orthodontic treatment will not only beautify your smile, but it will also prevent dental problems in the future such as:
- Gum damage (severe overbite or overjet can cause gum recession resulting in tooth loss if untreated)
- Difficulty speaking and chewing (challenges pronouncing words or sounds)
- Tooth wear and damage
- Sleep apnea (in more serious cases, an overjet or overbite may cause a blockage of the body’s upper airway during sleep, causing sleep apnea)
- Jaw pain
An openbite is a little different – the teeth don’t align with each other properly when the jaw closes leaving an oval-shaped gap between the top row of teeth and the bottom row.
This malocclusion typically results from thumb or pacifier sucking, skeletal problems or temporomandibular joint disorders. Fortunately, like other teeth alignment issues discussed so far, an openbite is something that you can correct in adulthood with braces.
An openbite can make biting and chewing food difficult because the back teeth are coming together more often, and the wear and tear can lead to discomfort and other dental problems including fractured teeth.
An underbite, usually inherited, is a jaw alignment issue that occurs when the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper row of teeth.
There are numerous effects of an underbite including chewing difficulties, headaches, tooth decay (and subsequent gingivitis and/or cavities from teeth misalignment), chronic mouth breathing, speech issues, halitosis (bad breath) and sleep apnea.
While metal braces are more commonly used for moderate to severe underbites, clear braces such as Invisalign may also be an option for milder underbite problems.
There are two classifications of crossbite, anterior and posterior:
A posterior crossbite refers to the group of lower teeth toward the back of your mouth fitting over the teeth in your top jaw.
An anterior crossbite refers to the group of teeth in the bottom front of your mouth fitting over the teeth of your top jaw.
If left untreated, crossbites can cause a myriad of health problems. Along with dental issues such as teeth grinding, irregular wear to the enamel and loss of teeth, crossbite patients report developing headaches and muscle tension from the abnormal stress placed on the jaw.
Very few adults want braces, but they do want straight teeth and a healthy mouth. Where teeth are crooked, overlapping or just in the wrong place, they create little nooks and crannies that regular brushing can’t quite reach and, over time, bacteria begins to thrive and eventually it bores its way into the teeth and gums. The good news is that all of the dental misalignments mentioned above can be fixed with orthodontic treatment.
If you’re interested in straightening your smile or want to know how braces can improve your oral health, register today for a free consultation with with Orthodontics For You.