The Benefits of Wearing Braces
Do people wear braces only to improve physical appearance?
Not necessarily. While many people now admit to wearing braces specifically to improve their smile or look, orthodontic treatment is more than just a cosmetic procedure. Because braces seek to correct various kinds of dental conditions, they actually help improve the long-term condition of teeth and gums and, thus, the overall health of the patient. Simply put, a good smile and properly functioning teeth help add to the confidence and self-esteem of an individual, encourage him/her to eat better and help him/her avoid dental and health problems.
What conditions are corrected by braces?
One of the most common benefits of braces is correcting a bad bite. A bad bite, or malocclusion, is misalignment of teeth such that they do not mesh properly. When left uncorrected, malocclusion may cause the teeth to wear poorly over time. It can also affect the muscles supporting the jaw, leading to muscle pain, or weaken bone and gum support that can result in loss of teeth.
There are several types of malocclusion that braces can correct by forcing the teeth and jaws to align properly. These are:
- Overbite: When the upper front teeth overlap too much with the lower front teeth
- Openbite: When the upper and lower front teeth don't overlap at all
- Overjet: When the front teeth protrude; this condition is often referred to as bucked teeth
- Underbite: When the front teeth recede or sink in
Braces can also reposition crowded or loosely spaced teeth. Crowded teeth are prone to decay because they easily trap food particles, and are more difficult to brush and floss. Widely spaced teeth similarly allow food to be impacted within the spaces, and can lead to periodontal diseases. With braces, teeth can be straightened or repositioned to fill in gaps. In some cases, the orthodontist may recommend replacement work involving a bridge or tooth implant.
What other problems can braces address?
Braces can also prevent the development of temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), more commonly referred to as jaw joints problems. TMJ usually develops when the lower jaw is positioned too far back, resulting in the compression of blood vessels and nerves in the area. Poorly positioned teeth also aggravate TMJ. The usual method of correcting this condition is by TMJ splint therapy, which decreases the pressure exerted on the jaw and reduces pain. Braces can take the place of a TMJ splint, moving the teeth in order to stabilize the jaw in the appropriate position.
Braces can also be used to discourage thumb-, finger-, or pacifier-sucking among children. When practiced beyond the age of 6 or 7, sucking can cause dental problems among children, such as crooked teeth, irregular bite, speech problems, abnormal tongue positions or tongue-thrusting habits.