NEW YORK—Perfectly formed, gleaming teeth in neat and even rows: On television, everyone has them, and in real life, everyone admires them. Cosmetic reasons for getting teeth aligned are pretty self-evident, but did you know that having straight teeth comes with additional health benefits?
Dr. Kenn Kakosian practices cosmetic dentistry and oral surgery in New York. Nowadays, his preferred way to improve alignment is with Invisalign, which he’s used for more than 11 years, completing close to 600 cases. He also has a doctorate degree in temporomandibular disorder.
Invisalign has quickly become a popular alternative to classic metal braces and can treat most cases where teeth are not severely rotated.
“Most malocclusions (imperfect alignment of the teeth) can be treated with Invisalign,” Dr. Kakosian said. “Patients prefer them because they are incomparably comfortable and cleanable in comparison to conventional braces.”
They’re also clear and relatively unnoticeable, and so are more aesthetically pleasing.
Invisalign trays snap on to small aligners attached to the teeth. The trays are custom-made and switched out every two weeks as the teeth morph slowly toward their final positions. Because the trays must be removed before each meal, Invisalign encourages better oral hygiene than traditional braces, whose wires and brackets trap food and plaque.
Since oral hygiene is an important part of overall health, this is just one way having straight teeth can improve one’s well-being.
1. Easier to Keep Clean
Straight teeth are easier to brush and floss than crooked and overlapping teeth, which are more likely to trap food particles.
If teeth are crooked, “there are places the bristles of the toothbrush cannot reach, and plaque and tartar accumulates,” Dr. Kakosian said. “People with straight teeth are able to keep them clean without extra effort.”
2. Lower Disease Risk
Having easy-to-clean teeth will then lower your risk for gum disease, which can lead to heart disease and may contribute to diabetes.
“Oral bacteria can enter your bloodstream and affect the inner lining of blood vessels and brain,” Dr. Kakosian said.
While the plaque on your teeth is not the same stuff in arteries that cause heart attacks, the same species of bacteria that cause periodontitis is also found in artery-clogging plaque.
3. Avoiding Tooth Loss
According to a 1999–2004 report by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 10 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds have lost all their teeth, and most adults lose at least one tooth over their lifetime.
Since the most common reasons for tooth loss are periodontal disease and tooth decay, it pays to make sure that your teeth are as easy to take care of as possible.
4. Keeping Your Jawbone Healthy
Some people are born with gaps in their teeth or have adult teeth that never came in. Others lose an adult tooth. A missing tooth leaves that area of the jawbone with little to do, so the bone in that area grows weak, leading to possible tooth loss.
Invisalign might not be the best option to close a gap where an entire tooth is missing. In that case, the most restorative option is to get a dental implant.
5. Fewer Headaches
Alignment issues contribute to bad bites and teeth grinding, both of which can lead to headaches. Correcting alignment will help alleviate these issues although more severe temporomandibular disorders (TMD) cannot be treated by Invisalign alone, Dr. Kakosian said.
6. Less Chipping
The more your teeth jut, the more likely they could get cracked or chipped in an injury. This is a particularly important consideration for players of high-impact or contact sports.
“In aligned teeth, the pressure [from the bite] will go along the long axis of the teeth versus hitting from the side,” Dr. Kakosian said. “This makes it less likely for the teeth to be chipped or abraded, and the long-term prognosis for the teeth is much more favorable.”
7. Lower Risk of Lip and Gum Injury
Crooked teeth can push against soft tissues in the mouth. If you routinely bite your cheek or lips due to a misaligned bite, it can result in cuts, sores, and infections—not to mention the annoyance.
For those considering orthodontics, Invisalign carries a lower risk of soft tissue injury inside the mouth than conventional braces, Dr. Kakosian said. “No metal, no wires, no sore lips, or sore gums.”
8. Better Digestion
Poorly aligned teeth can compromise chewing, and chewing is the first step of proper digestion. When you chew, saliva carries enzymes that help break down the food, making it easier for the stomach and intestines to do their jobs and reducing the number of bacteria needed to help break down nutrients in the gut.
So when chewing is a chore, people are often tempted to gloss over this important—and pleasurable—part of their meals. Dr. Kakosian said that he’s had a lot of patients report they can enjoy food better after getting their teeth aligned.
9. Clearer Speech
Try pronouncing “van” or “fan” if you have a gap in your front teeth, and you may find that you’ll whistle a little.
“A lot of times when people have diastema, during speech, they have trouble [pronouncing clearly],” Dr. Kakosian said, adding that his patients who straightened their teeth have experienced improved speech. “Diastema” is the term for a gap between teeth.
Clearer speech is naturally a confidence booster and may help correct psychological causes for speech impediments like stuttering.
10. Smiling More, Feeling Happier
Research shows that smiling—even if it’s forced—actually makes you happier. If you are self-conscious about crooked teeth, you might not be smiling as much as you would otherwise.
“It’s just a confidence boost, you can’t imagine,” Dr. Kakosian said. “I have patients who couldn’t stop smiling. A lot of people suffer loss of self esteem due to crooked or otherwise misaligned teeth and then get a confidence boost when their teeth are aligned. I had one patient whose treatment took a year and a half, and she said it was all worth it.”
Dr. Kenn Kakosian
The Chrysler Building
405 Lexington Ave, 21st Floor
New York, NY 10174