Hey look, it’s a fair question. After all, (at least to my knowledge) lack of braces never killed anyone. The same can’t be said unfortunately due to the lack of general dental treatment. Orthodontic treatment itself wasn’t actually “invented” as we know it today until the 1890s by Dr. Edward Angle and luckily, it has come a very long way since then…So what does orthodontics actually do to improve our dental health and why do we “need” it?
Well, the quick answer is: some people “need” it and some do not. There are in fact many people with straight teeth and good bites who never step foot in an orthodontic practice. Sometimes the parents in our office have never had orthodontic treatment. In fact, I even know a few orthodontists who have never had braces (This was definitely NOT me ;). And that is totally okay! The way we like to put it at our office is: almost everyone could use some version of orthodontic procedures, but not all “have” to have it. The longer answer takes some more time…
So why is the word “need” in quotation marks? Well, like I said, orthodontics didn’t exist 120 years ago. BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, good orthodontic treatment is many times critical for long-term dental health. People are living and keeping their teeth longer than ever in history and we have to plan for the long term. Orthodontics is a big part of that.
When most people think of the orthodontist they think of one of two things: a cartoon of an unfortunate child wearing a headgear (they’ve been “retired” at our office), or braces with “snaggly” teeth. Crooked teeth are, by far, the biggest reason that people seek orthodontic treatment and definitely the most well-known. Luckily for us, it’s also one of the easier things that we fix on a regular basis. Improving the esthetics of a smile has many benefits that we all know well – including a huge boost in confidence. Don’t we all want a beautiful smile?
What doesn’t get talked about nearly often enough is the way the teeth actually fit together. That is what we orthodontists REALLY look at when we recommend treatment. After all, we use our teeth to chew our food – so wouldn’t we want to make sure that they function the best they can? When we combine crooked teeth that aren’t fitting well with people keeping their teeth longer, what may have been considered “normal wear and tear” can quickly turn into a very difficult scenario. Dental occlusion (ie the “fit” of the teeth) can have many implications for long-term dental health including but not limited to – severe or premature “wearing” of the teeth, gingival recession, and compromised health of the gums, mobility of the teeth, and even jaw pain.
Now, some people are always at more risk than others (think of someone who grinds their teeth constantly) and not everybody with an imperfect bite is set up for a lifetime full of dental headaches. However, given the opportunity and ability to change it, it’s best not to take that chance.
There are even newer realms of orthodontic treatment that extend beyond the look and fit of the teeth. Interdisciplinary treatment (when a dentist and/or other specialists work together) is often best done with some version of orthodontics. Examples of this could be replacing missing or extracted teeth with implants or doing a good set of veneers or crowns. There are even crossovers between orthodontics and airway and speech concerns. The more we are learning the more application orthodontics has for these general health problems – perhaps a future blog post topic 😉
We love beautiful smiles AND healthy bites! The benefits of orthodontics aren’t just cosmetic – it sets people up for a lifetime of dental success!
Stay tuned next time to hear about when your child should come to see the orthodontist!
Please feel free to send any questions or feedback to Dr. Tyler at firstname.lastname@example.org