When people think about braces, often only the idea of crooked teeth comes to mind. But there's more to orthodontics than fixing the alignment of individual teeth. Some people who have underbites, overbites, or other bite alignment problems may end up with significant problems down the road if they don't seek treatment. Here's what getting braces now could potentially protect you from in the future.
If you've never heard of it, the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is the joint on either side of your jaw that lets you open and close your mouth. This joint causes problems for some people with a condition called TMD.
When it is aligned properly, very little pressure is put on the jaw joint while it's at rest. However, if the upper or lower jaw is smaller or larger than the other, it can change the pressure points in your mouth, putting strain on this joint. As a result, you may experience stiffness, pain, or even locking of the jaw joint. Over a prolonged period of time, this kind of problem can even cause osteoarthritis of the jaw joint by wearing down the natural cushioning in it.
Similar to the jaw joint, your teeth are also designed to only put up with a certain amount of pressure when at rest. Your upper and lower jaw shouldn't tightly clamp together, but when the pressure points are off, certain teeth can end up experiencing more pressure than others. In other cases, having an abnormally balanced jaw can also put more pressure on all of your teeth.
In either of these cases, a lot of problems can arise. Excess pressure on teeth wears down their chewing surfaces, weakening enamel and increasing the risk of cavities. To make matters worse, excessive force on a tooth over a long period of time can also increase your risk of tooth loss.
Many people wouldn't think twice about their teeth when considering snoring, but there's actually a connection there. When the lower jaw isn't aligned correctly with the upper one, it can sometimes cause the tongue to not have enough space to fully relax while you're asleep. As a result, the tongue falls back towards the throat when you snore, which can lead to snoring or even its more dangerous cousin, sleep apnea.
The good thing about all of these conditions is that they can be avoided or resolved by getting braces. Braces not only help to straighten out individual teeth but are also utilized to help reconcile size and shape differences between the upper and lower jaw. As a result, by the time your braces come off, your jaw joint and teeth will experience less pressure and strain, and you may not snore anymore, either.
Contact an orthodontist for more information about orthodontic treatment.