Think orthodontic treatment is all about straightening teeth? Think again. Though we tend to think of teens in braces solely in terms of appearance, there’s a lot more to it than that. Here’s how orthodontic treatment may help teens’ overall health.
Focus on function
When in optimal health, the teeth, tongue, and jaw work together seamlessly to perform complex tasks like biting, chewing, swallowing and speaking. When less than optimal, they have a difficult time working together and these essential functions can suffer as a result.
Here’s where orthodontia comes in. Not only does it straighten misaligned teeth, it can also fix a misaligned bite, what we call a “malocclusion.” When the bite is off, this can cause problems with biting, chewing, speech production (including lisping and slurring), and even swallowing. Fixing the bite can fix many of these problems.
We most associate snoring and sleep apnea with middle-aged men, but it can be a problem in teens, too. Between 1 in 50 and 1 in 25 adolescents suffer from sleep-disordered breathing. Sleep apnea not only affects the quality of life due to daytime sleepiness and cognitive problems, but it’s also linked to a long list of conditions that develop over time including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
Because snoring and sleep apnea are typically caused by restriction of the breath during sleep, orthodontic treatment can help correct it and cure it. Proper adjustment of the jaw and teeth opens the airway and allows for uninterrupted airflow during sleep.
When the jaw joint doesn’t function correctly, it can lead to pain in the head, face, neck, and shoulders, as well as ear congestion, ringing in the ears, and many other unpleasant side effects. My guess is that there are several thousand, if not millions, of people out there experiencing chronic pain who don’t know it stems from the jaw joint.
The jaw joint, temporomandibular joint (TMJ), is a complicated and hard-working joint which must be healthy and in alignment to function properly. Many problems with the TMJ can be managed or fixed through orthodontia, using braces or an appliance to help align the bite and jaw.
Another source of pain that can be avoided with the use of braces is the pain from impacted teeth. Impacted teeth aren’t able to fully erupt into the mouth and get stuck above or inside the gum line, which can be very painful, lead to infection, and sometimes require surgery. Using braces at an early age (sometimes even earlier than the teen years) can create room in the mouth, allowing these teeth to grow in straight and healthy.
Laying the foundation for lifelong oral health
Orthodontic treatment can do much more than straighten teeth for the sake of appearance. It sets up your teenager for a lifetime of good dental health. Straight teeth in an aligned bite can improve function, improve sleep, and prevent pain.
If you’ve been avoiding braces for your teen because you think it’s all about vanity, think again. Orthodontic treatment not just a matter of straight teeth, but a matter of great health.