Many people understand the role of an orthodontist in terms of the aesthetics of a straighter smile, but did you know that the alignment of your teeth can impact your overall health, too? For people with certain kinds of misalignment, orthodontics is medically necessary to avoid chronic pain and other issues. Even for patients who don’t report physical symptoms due to misalignment, long-term health benefits from orthodontic treatments are still noticeable, and more severe symptoms may be avoided before they develop.
Conditions affected by misaligned teeth
According to the “Journal of Oral Rehabilitation’s” May 2010 issue, temporomandibular joint pain and the associated displacement of cartilage can be averted in some patients with the right orthodontic treatment. It can also reduce the severity of TMJ symptoms and help prevent relapse, and it reduces the severity of the bruxism, or teeth grinding, associated with the condition for many patients.
Neck and shoulder pain
Patients without TMJ still frequently develop neck and shoulder pain related to misaligned teeth, and this can affect many other health issues. Persistent pain leads frequently to sleep loss, which has been linked repeatedly to other common health conditions, including these:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Bite correction by an orthodontist can help the jaw relax into a more comfortable position when the patient is at rest, leading to a decrease in muscle tension in the region that reduces or eliminates the cause of this kind of chronic pain. This and other quality of life outcomes are discussed in “Does Orthodontic Treatment Affect Patients’ Quality of Life?” in the August 2008 edition of the “Journal of Dental Education.”
Along with neck and shoulder pain, frequent headaches that are not linked to migraines or other underlying health issues often turn out to be related to misaligned teeth. The same issues that lead to tension in the neck and shoulder region can cause headaches, and if the malocclusion causes bruxism as a side effect, headaches are a frequent symptom of the condition.
One of the longest known and most frequently discussed health outcomes from orthodontic treatment is the improvement of a patient’s speech. Generally, the more profoundly the teeth are offset, the more it affects patient speech. An orthodontist can remove the physical impediments to developing more stable speech patterns, making speech therapy easier and more successful.
Correcting malocclusion involves moving the teeth into an alignment that makes common brushing and flossing techniques more effective, and that can improve many patients’ oral hygiene. Misaligned teeth or an offset bite can both create areas that are hard to reach with a toothbrush, and that encourages tooth decay by leaving food particles in those inaccessible areas. It’s much easier to prevent gum disease once those issues are corrected.
Having an orthodontist target the conditions discussed can help improve quality of life, but patients do not need to suffer from those conditions to see health improvements while undergoing treatment. Each condition that improves with an orthodontist’s intervention does so because of ways the treatment reduces the causes that lead to chronic pain and other negative health outcomes. Early intervention can often prevent the development of these conditions.
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