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Recently, a very dramatic friend of mine was lying gloomily over a purple chaise longue, waving a tissue and lamenting that she had chipped a lower front tooth while eating chips and queso. Was her enamel weak? Was she taking poor care of her teeth? Does Kerbey Lane have better queso than Tacodeli? Why was this happening to her, she yammered. While there are many reasons teeth become chipped or fractured, I’d bet the farm her chip was caused by misaligned teeth and not by poor home care. In fact, misaligned or crooked teeth can cause tons of issues, ranging from unhealthy gums to sleep apnea and even temporomandibular-joint problems.
Are straight teeth really important? You bet! Having straight teeth is more than a cosmetic goal; it is like an insurance policy for the lower half of your head. (Let’s face it, that’s my favorite part of the head. It’s what I use to eat all that queso). If your teeth don’t meet properly with your mouth closed or if one side of your mouth touches together before the other side while biting, you may be at risk for damaging your jaw joints. If you’ve ever been a teeth grinder or clencher, you know that can come with some nasty headaches.
There’s more to straight teeth than just aiding in the prevention of chipped teeth and uncomfortable jaw pain. It can also save you money in the long run. The better aligned your teeth are, the easier they are to keep clean. Overlapping or crowded teeth can hoard gunk in hard-to-reach places—even with regular brushing and flossing. If bacteria isn’t getting cleaned out, it’s going to unpack its little fanny pack and relax in an Adirondack chair right there in your mouth. It might invite some friends over too. And when those friends hang out, they get rowdy. You may end up with cavities and red, swollen gums, an early warning sign of gum disease that can then lead to tooth loss.
Speaking of people who may be missing teeth, you may have noticed kids as young as 7 or 8 with braces. Even baby teeth may need a little help getting in the right position to promote proper jaw growth and aid in the proper eruption of permanent teeth. Phase 1 braces, as they are often called, help to correct dentition problems that appear early in childhood development. For example, overcrowding, overbites, underbites and narrow palate space can all be addressed with Phase 1 braces while the jaw is still growing.
If you’ve blasted through this piece and read it with the same amount of attention and fervor you gave the manual for the alarm clock you bought in 1998, it probably means you missed the big points about straightening the ol’ chompers. So, I’ll list some hot points.
- Reduce the risk of chipping/fracturing teeth while chewing.
- Bring stability to your bite and reduce grinding/clenching jaw discomfort.
- Improve your ability to keep your mouth clean and your current restorations in good shape.
- Gain confidence. Having a straight smile is great for your health but it also feels pretty darn good to show it off too.
So, If you’re in the same boat (or chaise longue) as my friend and kvetching about any of the aforementioned problems, get off your keister and do something about it! I gave my friend a swift shake to the shoulders and told her to make an appointment. Invisalign, traditional braces and lingual braces are all options to look into, but one size does not fit all, so make sure you consult with Dr. Erika Whitehouse and an orthodontist to see what option is best for you.