Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why are crooked teeth a health problem?

Teeth that are not aligned properly in your mouth can create what orthodontists call “malocclusion” (bad bite.) Left untreated, a bad bite can lead to periodontal disease and create abnormal amounts of stress on the teeth and jaws, which lead to premature wear.

Straightening your teeth can reduce the risk of serious dental problems because it’s easier to clean them properly when they are well-aligned. What we have also learned through scientific research in recent years is that straightening your teeth and correcting your bite can actually help you live a longer, healthier life.

Does this sound too good to be true? It’s not.

When teeth are crooked and crowded it’s hard to keep them clean even if you are very diligent about brushing and flossing. Chances are that over time some hard-to-reach areas will end up being neglected and you will develop periodontal disease. This means that your gums that hold your teeth in place get infected. Your gums become swollen and bleed easily when you brush your teeth. This initial gum infection is called gingivitis.

If left untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which literally means “inflammation around the tooth.” The gums pull away from the teeth and form little pockets of infection from trapped food and bacteria. Infections activate your body’s immune system, which in turn attacks the bacteria. The battle between bacteria and the immune system will start to break down the gums, connective tissue and bone that hold your teeth in place in the jaws. That can make chewing painful and difficult, and can lead to teeth that become so loose that they fall out or need to be extracted.