• Does It Really Matter If My Teeth Are Straight???

  • I talk to patients every day about malocclusion. That’s just a fancy word for ‘your teeth don’t fit together perfectly’. Almost every single one of us has some sort of malocclusion. It isn’t earth-shattering. It isn’t going to kill you. But I am going to describe the various reasons why it actually is a bigger deal than you may think. There’s probably no way I can bring up every single reason this is important. I’m going to try to hit as many high points as I can.

    OK. So we’ve all bitten our cheek at one point or another. It’s very unpleasant. Our upper teeth are supposed to be a millimeter or so outside of our lower teeth when we bite. This protects our cheeks and lips. Some people have lower teeth, either some or all of them, that are outside of our upper teeth. These people can talk and eat just fine. But they would probably benefit from orthodontics. Sometimes this sort of malocclusion makes a person’s lower jaw overly prominent. Sometimes not.

    We probably all know who Lauren Hutton and Madonna are. They have spacing between their front teeth. It’s a part of them and we don’t beat them up about it. However, most of the time, it’s best not to have spacing between our teeth. Food can get stuck in there, particularly meat. Sometimes, people are really bothered by it if they have spacing in the front teeth. These folks should have orthodontics. This is probably the easiest issue to fix with Invisalign or traditional braces.

    Most of us grind our teeth at night without realizing it, or clench during the day. All it takes is trying to drive somewhere. This makes our teeth flat over time, which is not good when we need to chew up some food so that we can swallow it. Our teeth have hills and valleys, and that’s because it helps immensely when we try to break up a bite of food. Orthodontics can do amazing things. It cannot restore the flattened hills and valleys. That takes a crown. But it can bring our canines or eye teeth out further, which actually protects our back teeth from wear. Our canines are our mouths Most Valuable Players. They are the strongest, and usually the longest teeth in our mouths. Treat them nicely.

    While I’m on the subject of bringing teeth out further into our mouths, I want to point out that some people have teeth that are too long. These teeth are called super-erupted. This is also not good, because we knock into these longer teeth when we try to chew and move our jaw sideways. Orthodontics can push these teeth back toward where they belong. This takes a little while, but can be worth the wait. If you lose a tooth on the top, it’s likely a bottom tooth will end up super-erupted, and vice-versa. Teeth are lonely souls. They look for their partner all their lives.

    The most common reason for people to seek orthodontics is crowding. It can be quite unattractive, and it makes our teeth extremely difficult to keep clean. Even mild crowding can cause extra staining and tooth decay. When we floss, the crowding makes it difficult. I know you all know what I’m talking about, since we all floss twice each day. The crowding also makes life hard for your dentist and hygienist. It’s hard for the dentist to restore teeth that are smashed against their neighbor, and it’s hard for the hygienist to clean them.

    Sometimes, our teeth jut out in front. Contrary to popular belief, this is called overjet, not overbite. Overbite is an overused term. Overbite is how much of your lower teeth your upper teeth cover when you bite. Overjet is how far out your upper teeth stick from the lower teeth. We usually find about one millimeter of overjet to be aesthetically pleasing. There’s a wide range, here, but when we have overjet of four millimeters or more, people can tell. Orthodontics is awesome for correcting this sort of malocclusion.

    Sometimes our teeth are not lined up perfectly with our nose. Maybe we broke our nose, maybe it’s naturally crooked, or maybe our upper or lower teeth are too far to the right or left. Orthodontics can fix this right up. We all look for symmetry. Again, it’s not going to kill you, but people can get really bugged when one of their front teeth is right in the middle of their face there. Tom Cruise has this going on….look and see.

    Finally, some folks have teeth that barely touch when they bite. This may because of a large overjet, a large lower jaw, or teeth that only touch in the front or the back of the mouth. This is really unhealthy. We need to be able to grind up food and mix it with saliva in order for proper nutrition to occur. If we don’t chew up our food well enough, it’s really hard for our bodies to digest that morsel. A lot of work for our poor digestive tract, which really needs to rest more.

    I offer Invisalign in my clinic. I love doing it. Much of the time, Invisalign can correct malocclusion. Once in a while, there’s a tooth stuck up in somebody’s jaw, or the problem is crazy severe and a patient actually needs traditional braces. We have this great app that tells us in about one minute if a case is a good candidate for Invisalign treatment or not. We just take the photos with our cell phone and send them in. We can even tell if it’s going to take six months or less, and therefore cost less. I love seeing the changes in people’s smiles with Invisalign. I love how easy it is for people, and how much less painful for our lips and tongue it is than traditional braces. There is a time and a place for traditional braces, and orthodontists are awesome. If your dentist tells you to go see one, you probably should. And no, I do not recommend the cheapy online versions of Invisalign. Dentistry is simply not a do-it-yourself thing to do. We dentists went to school for a very long time to learn how to help you with this.

    I hope this blog helps you to understand a little bit better why us dentists are mentioning orthodontics at your checkups. It’s a bigger deal than just ‘straight teeth’. Thanks for reading!!!