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Why Straighten Teeth

Besides health, your self image may depend on it!

A Consultation with Dr. Robert L. Boyd

Dear Doctor,
My teeth have always been a bit crooked, and I've lost a back tooth along the way, which hasn't been replaced. Dentists have been telling me for years that I should have my teeth straightened. I eat well and am comfortable. Now at 29, is there a good reason to have them straightened?

Why Straighten Teeth

Dear Gina,
Thank you for your question, and yes it is a valid one. According to the American Association of Orthodontists: “Straight teeth help an individual to effectively bite, chew and speak. Straight teeth contribute to healthy teeth and gums. Properly aligned teeth and jaws may alleviate or prevent physical health problems. Teeth that work better also tend to look better. An attractive smile is a pleasant ‘side effect’ of orthodontic treatment.”

An attractive smile is a wonderful asset. It contributes to self-esteem, self-confidence and self-image — important qualities at every age. A pleasing appearance is a vital component of self-confidence. A person's self-esteem often improves as orthodontic treatment brings teeth, lips and face into proportion. In this way, orthodontic treatment can benefit social and career success, as well as improve a person's general attitude toward life.

There are psychological aspects that are also important. It has been clinically proven that a beautiful smile leads to higher self-esteem. Confidence generates success. People with beautiful smiles have a lot to be happy about."

That's the basic truth, but there is more. Certainly cultural norms play a role, and American society, typified by the “Hollywood” or “All-American” smile plays a role in the demand and need for a great smile with well-aligned white, healthy looking teeth. But there is also an old adage, if something looks right it probably is right. Form (alignment in this case) and function — biting, chewing, speaking, even smiling and laughing all do go together. Over and above that, properly aligned teeth will generally function and wear better over the course of a lifetime. A certain amount of tooth wear is to be expected as we age.

Orthodontic treatment can benefit social and career success, as well as improve a person's general attitude toward life.

In addition, certain people who are prone to periodontal (gum) disease (peri-around, odont-tooth) may have worse problems due to poor alignment and function of teeth, not only making it more difficult to clean, but creating more disease — defects in both bone and gum tissues. For example, it is not uncommon to see gum recession around mal-positioned or crowded teeth. These defects can be either resolved or modified by moving teeth into a more ideal position thereby facilitating complete correction by plastic periodontal surgical means. This is true with one big caveat — that inflammation and infection causing the periodontal disease are controlled before and during orthodontic (tooth movement) treatment.

For people who have lost teeth, it may be difficult to replace them effectively, because when individual or even several teeth are lost, others move, so that in order to replace the missing teeth effectively, the remaining ones need to be put into correct position and function. This allows proper spacing, function and aesthetics of the whole system. It's like getting the foundations of a house aligned properly before repairing the house.

So there's more than sometimes meets the eye when considering orthodontic treatment. Speak to your general dentist or orthodontist and have an evaluation. They may just be able to show you what can be done to improve your bite and smile with a mockup or simulation of the magic of orthodontics.