An aligned smile is often associated with straight, even teeth, but did you know that braces and Invisalign can also play a crucial role in correcting jaw alignment? Orthodontic treatments can straighten teeth, but they can also address issues related to jaw alignment, including overbite, underbite, crossbite, and open bite.
What Are Braces?
Braces and other orthodontic appliances use gentle pressure on your teeth to adjust their position and help the wearer achieve straight teeth and an aligned bite and jaw. Both children and adults can use these appliances, as your teeth can move at any age.
Modern orthodontics offer a range of options for different lifestyles, such as:
- Traditional braces: These are the classic metal brackets and wires that many people are familiar with. While effective, they may not be the most discreet option.
- Clear braces: Clear braces can be a more subtle alternative to traditional metal braces. Made from transparent materials, they’re designed to blend in with the teeth so that they’re less noticeable.
- Invisalign: Invisalign is popular for those seeking a nearly invisible orthodontic solution. Using a series of clear aligners, Invisalign gradually moves the teeth and can also address some jaw alignment issues.
Braces & Jaw Alignment
An aligned upper and lower jaw can support a healthy bite and contribute to the overall health of your mouth and teeth. Misaligned teeth (malocclusion), where the top and bottom teeth don’t come together, can lead to several problems, including:
- Cosmetic issues
- Wearing down of teeth
- Difficulty chewing or speaking
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)
- Increased risk of other dental problems
- Sleep apnea
What Causes Jaw Misalignment?
Several factors can cause misaligned teeth and jaws, including:
- Problems with the development and position of certain teeth or jaw bones
- Problems with the development of the tongue, lips, cheeks, and muscle tissue.
- A family history of misaligned jaws and teeth
- Tooth loss
- Baby teeth falling out too early
- Some bone diseases
Risk factors for tooth and jaw misalignment can include babies and toddlers using a pacifier or sucking their thumb or finger past age 3, leading to an increased risk of crooked teeth and misaligned jaw bones. Children only breathing through their mouth can also be a risk factor.
By using braces to move teeth into new positions, orthodontists may be able to simultaneously improve tooth and jaw alignment, leading to a harmonious bite and smile.
Types of Jaw Misalignment that Braces Can Address
Jaw misalignment can manifest in various ways, each requiring different orthodontic approaches. Your dentist can assess your condition and severity before recommending the appropriate treatment.
Braces can be an effective solution for addressing bite issues such as:
- Overbite: An overbite occurs when the upper front teeth significantly overlap the lower front teeth. Braces can help by adjusting the positioning of the upper and lower teeth and jaws, bringing them into alignment.
- Underbite: An underbite happens when the lower front teeth protrude past the upper front teeth. Braces can assist in moving the teeth and jaws to achieve a more balanced bite.
- Crossbite: A crossbite occurs when one or more upper teeth don’t align with the corresponding lower teeth. Braces can correct this misalignment.
- Open bite: An open bite is when there is a space between the upper and lower front teeth, even when the mouth is closed. Braces can help close this gap and improve overall alignment.
The Benefits of Correcting Jaw Alignment
Addressing jaw misalignment through braces offers various benefits beyond a straight smile. Some of the advantages can include:
- Improved chewing: When your upper and lower jaw aligns, chewing can become more efficient and comfortable.
- Speech enhancement: Jaw misalignment can sometimes interfere with speech, leading to lisps or other pronunciation difficulties. Aligning the jaws with braces can help speech patterns improve.
- Reduced jaw pain: Misaligned jaws can cause strain on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), resulting in jaw pain and surrounding muscle pain and discomfort. Braces can help alleviate this pain by realigning the jaws.
- Prevention of dental problems: Jaw misalignment can lead to uneven wear on teeth, tooth fractures, and other oral health issues, including tooth decay and tooth loss. Correcting jaw alignment with braces can prevent potential problems and help you avoid other extensive dental procedures.
Caring for Braces
Caring for braces is essential to ensure a successful orthodontic journey and maintain healthy teeth and gums. Proper care can include maintaining excellent oral hygiene and avoiding sticky, hard, or chewy foods that can damage braces.
You should also regularly attend orthodontic appointments to monitor progress and make necessary adjustments. If you have a problem or experience discomfort or irritation, you should contact your dentist or orthodontist to have your braces checked.
Align Your Overall Oral Health
Braces can straighten teeth and improve jaw alignment. The benefits of a well-aligned jaw go beyond aesthetics and can improve oral and overall health for children and adults.