While most people associate misaligned (“crooked”) teeth with detracting from appearance, misaligned teeth (malocclusion) can also negatively impact chewing. Issues with chewing can result in reduced nutritional intake and poor health. This is a major reason why it’s important for parents to have their children’s teeth examined by a dentist while still very young and take the proper steps to correct any malocclusion problems as soon as possible. For adults, it’s never too late to have teeth straightened – especially as it can improve digestive health in addition to dramatically improving facial appearance.
The important role of teeth in good digestion
We usually think of digestion as beginning in the stomach and moving on through the rest of the digestive tract, but the process actually begins in the mouth: saliva and teeth grind to break down food, allowing the nutrients it contains to be fully processed and absorbed by the intestines.
Furthermore, human teeth are designed for performing different functions of chewing: our sharpest teeth, the incisors, for biting pieces of food and moving it back to the mouth. Just behind the incisors are the canine teeth, with longer roots, which also aid in tearing and holding food.
The molars immediately follow and, with their flatter surfaces, are responsible for grinding and breaking down the food, at which point it is sent down to the esophagus and from there down into the stomach and the rest of the digestive tract.
How you chew food is as important as the food itself: you can be making healthy food choices but if you aren’t able to take advantage of them by chewing properly, you can lose a lot of precious nutrients. This can negatively impact your immune system and your overall health.
Problems caused by TMJ
If temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is present, often showing up as pain that occurs with jaw movement, such facial pain, headaches or a bite that is uncomfortable, will make it difficult to chew normally. In such cases, Dr. Bailey may recommend dental guards, surgery or dental implants, which closely resemble the natural teeth in appearance and function, and are inserted into the bony area of the jaw.
How an orthodontist can help
Patients who have been referred to Dr. Bailey and her team for care are in need of a specialist in treating patients with misaligned tooth problems. After taking dental x-rays and making an impression of the teeth with a moldable material, Dr. Bailey will usually determine a plan of treatment most appropriate for the specific condition.
For some patients, all that may be needed will be a retainer to stabilize teeth in the desired new position to correct the problem. If overcrowding is present, one or more teeth may have to be removed to allow those remaining to be re-positioned for better alignment. In other cases, braces, such as Invisalign, will also be necessary to correct misalignment issues, as determined by Dr. Bailey and her team.