While some might think that straightening teeth is “purely cosmetic”, the underlying reasons why we might need and choose to have orthodontic treatment go much deeper than cosmetic only. The reasons are all connected to our desire to improve that part of our quality of life that is tied to our dental and oral health and function, as well as our facial appearance and identity.
As a community, as our standard of living gradually improves we look for opportunities to improve our quality of life. Our making use of the first class medical and dental care available is a big part of this improvement in our quality of life.
At least 7 out of 10 of us (children, adolescents and adults) have teeth that are not aligned or don’t fit together properly, with at least 5 out of 10 having enough of a problem that a dentist would usually recommend orthodontic treatment. Interestingly, non-dentists can pick 3 out of the 5 people that a dentist would refer.
Although there is little evidence that an untreated malocclusion definitely causes major dental health problems later, an untreated malocclusion can be associated with a number of issues but not necessarily as the direct cause.
Leaving a bad bite untreated does not lead to tooth decay or disease of the gums and bone around the teeth. If our toothbrushing and general oral hygiene are kept at a high standard, we have little risk of developing these common dental problems. Obviously though, aligned teeth can make the task of cleaning the teeth and gums much easier.
Some bad bites can contribute to excessive wear on some of the teeth and so correcting these malocclusions will help to reduce this risk. Some of us with malocclusions may have difficulty in eating, swallowing or in saying certain sounds. Although there are causes of these problems that cannot be corrected with orthodontics alone, these issues are often related to the shape of our teeth and jaws or could be due to our muscles adapting to the abnormal mouth shape.
Instinctively, also, we know that a bad bite can have an effect on how we see ourselves and on how others see us. Generally, straight teeth and a good smile are seen as an asset by most people. Irregular or protruding teeth are often seen as a disadvantage. It has been shown that people we see, meet or spend time with, may be influenced in a positive or negative way by the appearance of our teeth. We also know that some of us with bad bites may be concerned about this effect, and this concern can have a big impact on our confidence and our interaction with others. Orthodontic treatment can make a very obvious difference to our quality of life if we have any of these concerns.
With scientific and technological advances, orthodontic treatment is easier and less intrusive for patients than it was previously. The earlier an orthodontic assessment is done, the better, but age is no barrier to orthodontic treatment. More adolescents and adults are choosing to find out about orthodontic correction than ever before, as they become aware of the possibilities, benefits and affordability of treatment.