Sure, straight teeth and a good bite look nice, but when they’re lacking, it’s hardly just a cosmetic concern. As we’ve noted before, crooked teeth and a misaligned bite can lead to problems, such as TMJ and other pain disorders.
And as a new review of the scientific literature shows, it can also mean more tooth decay.
For the review, researchers sifted through years of published studies on the potential relationship between malocclusion (a bad bite) and dental caries among children and teens, seeking only those that used two specific measurements: the Dental Aesthetic Index (DAI), which measures the degree of malocclusion, and the Decayed, Missing, Filled Teeth index (DMFT), which measures the impact of tooth decay.
Five studies involving 4844 patients met their criteria. All were found to be of moderate to high quality.
All together, what they showed after analysis was that the worse the malocclusion, the higher the average DMFT score. Those with what’s known as handicapping malocclusion – in which the bite is so off, it interferes with basic activities such as speaking or eating and negatively affects physical and mental health – scored the highest on the DMFT index.
More, any degree of malocclusion was linked to higher scores.
One of the most common reasons for that is simply that crooked teeth can make it harder to clean all surfaces thoroughly. Bits of food are also more apt to get stuck between the teeth, likewise raising the risk of decay.
Plaque accumulation spells trouble for your gums, as well. One recent study of patients seeking orthodontic care found that the vast majority presented with telltale signs of gum disease.
If you have a crooked smile – or if your child does – it’s vitally important then to not just do the best you can with your home hygiene and hope for the best. Hygiene matters, of course, along with regular professional cleanings. It just shouldn’t end there. Taking a proactive approach by kicking sugars and refined carbs out of your diet and replacing them with nutrient-dense foods can offer the most additional help, along with other lifestyle improvements that can lower your risk of developing cavities and gum disease.
Those habits should also serve you well if and when you decide to get your teeth straightened and bite improved. (We refer most of our ortho patients to Dr. Jed Hildebrand, one of the most excellent orthodontists we know!) Not only can they help during the orthodontic process itself – because cleaning can be hard when your teeth have brackets, though aligner systems like Invisalign prevent that problem – but beyond.
The habits that make for healthy teeth and gums, after all, are habits for a lifetime.