It’s More Than Cosmetics

We see plenty of folks who are simply looking to improve their smile. They may, perhaps, have a small gap between their incisors. Most people won’t even notice or care, but there it is, staring back at them every morning in the mirror. Maybe their canines are slightly forward, giving them a sort of “fanged” look. Again, it’s not affecting their bite or dental health, but it is impacting their self-esteem.

In these cases, we happily create a treatment plan that will improve the cosmetics of their smile.

But there are a number of medical and health reasons to explore braces or Invisalign®.

When your teeth don’t neatly fit together properly, it’s known as a “malocclusion.” One of the most common is the Class II bite, or overbite. In this case, the lower jaw sits a bit farther back than the upper jaw, and the upper teeth protrude over the lowers. A normal bite will do this naturally, but with an overbite it’s exaggerated. This type of bite can sometimes cause gum damage, a greater risk of wearing/chipping your lower teeth due to rubbing the backside of your top teeth while eating, or in young children, could put you at greater risk of trauma to your teeth during a fall on the playground. It can also make it harder to eat some foods.

The mirror image of this is the Class III bite, or underbite. You have the same issues with food and damage, but an underbite can also make it functionally more difficult to chew food with your front teeth. Sometimes chewing can also cause fatigue and soreness in your jaw muscles and temporomandibular joints, or TMJs.

Another type of malocclusion is an open bite. Here, there are gaps where the upper and lower teeth either don’t overlap or don’t meet at all. Many say that this can be the result of childhood thumb sucking. If left unchecked, it can cause issues with eating, and those with an open bite often develop speech issues. It also leads to a habit called “tongue thrusting,” where the tongue pushes forward to fill that gap in the teeth.

By far the most common malocclusions are simple issues of crowding and spacing. The teeth are either too far apart or too crowded together. If your teeth aren’t properly spaced and aligned, it becomes more difficult to maintain good dental hygiene (which can lead to bad breath!), it’s more difficult to eat, and some people find themselves grinding their teeth. Grinding, whether it’s when awake or asleep, can damage the teeth, contribute to headaches, and even cause temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD), which are disorders involving your TMJs.

Your TMJ is the hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull. If you develop a TMJ disorder due to teeth grinding or simply misaligned teeth, you may find yourself with a persistent pain in either the joint, the muscles that control your jaw movement, or both. TMJ disorders can be caused by a number of factors, so it is best to have a clinical evaluation to identify if your bite is the cause.

Ultimately, working with an orthodontist is about cosmetics. We have a proven record of improving smiles. But sometimes choosing braces or Invisalign® is about improving your health.

Contact us if you feel as if we can help to improve your health – AND your smile!

Gardner & La Rochelle Orthodontics in Richmond, VA