This by far is the most common question that a parent asks during an orthodontic visit at Aura Orthodontics. It is usually followed by “If I have good teeth, what happened to my children?”
Let me just preface this by saying the answer is not straightforward because there are several factors that determine how our teeth look and why braces are needed. The following will explain some of those different factors and the roles they play in answering this question.
Let’s begin with the nature versus nurture debate. The nature part of this discussion is our genetics that we receive from our parents and the nurture part is the environment that we are brought up in. For genetics, a large part of the way we look, including our teeth is determined by our parents – regardless of what the problem is – if our parents had crooked teeth, an overbite, an underbite, spacing or crowding – then we will most likely have the same problem. If our parents don’t have any of these problems, then neither should we, right? Not necessarily…
This is where the nurture part of the discussion comes into play. When I say environment, I don’t mean the trees, the land or the weather. I am talking about the factors that we expose our teeth to on a daily basis – the oral environment. For example, our dietary habits, which include sugary foods like candy and soda, our brushing habits, and fluoridated water to name a few of the important ones.
In some areas of the world, people have fluoridated drinking water – which means fluoride is put into their water. At very low levels, fluoride has been proven to help prevent cavities. When we don’t have fluoride in our water (like in Vancouver, Surrey, or Delta) – this preventative effect is not there. Additionally, many children these days are exposed to a diet high in sugar, with lots of sticky foods. These sticky sugars constantly ‘attack’ the baby teeth and create large cavities. This poor diet, in combination with poor brushing habits can lead to large cavities, which then require big fillings or an early removal of baby teeth.
Baby teeth are important for many reasons – one of which is holding space for our adult teeth. When baby teeth are lost early, the adult teeth lose their ‘guide’ and they erupt into the mouth in a variety of different positions. The bad news is that this is one of the main reasons we see crowding in our kids today – because of early loss of baby teeth. The good news is that this problem is easily prevented with less sugar and better brushing. When baby teeth are lost early – it is very important to see your orthodontist to maintain space for adult teeth. This is why at Aura Orthodontics; we recommend that a child’s first screening be completed by age seven.
On another note, if you look back by 40 or 50 years – how many people had braces? The obvious answer is not that many. Next ask yourself, how many of your grandparents have dentures? – Is it accurate to say that probably quite a few? Braces may not necessarily prevent dentures. However, it has been proven that orthodontically straightened teeth have a much better chance of lasting a patient’s life. Straighter teeth have several benefits that allow us to maintain them for the long term. For example, they are easier to clean, which helps to prevent cavities. Additionally, straight teeth can help maintain bone support.
If teeth are crooked, biting causes an unhealthy transfer of force to the bone. In fact, the teeth and bone have a very close relationship, similar to that of a fence post and the ground. Imagine a fence post in the ground and if you hit the fence post on its side with a hammer ten times a day, eventually the fencepost will tilt over and fall. Also, the ground that was supporting the fence post will be soft and become weakened. The same is true with crooked teeth – the bone will become weakened after years of unhealthy forces and teeth can become loose. Oppositely, if you hit the fence post on its top, it will not damage the post or the ground. The same is true for straight teeth when they transfer healthy forces to the bone. Overall, for this reason straighter teeth tend to last longer.
Today, braces are far more socially accepted than they were in the past. Again, think back to 20 to 30 years ago and imagine how many people had braces. The fact is that it was not that common back then. With recent advances in technology, treatment is much easier – smaller braces, clear braces, Invisalign and other totally clear options. And as a result, braces are becoming more and more common. This is true for both children and adults.
Additionally, more kids these days receive orthodontic treatment because it is becoming less socially acceptable to have crooked teeth. Unfortunately, we see this all too often at Aura Orthodontics where a young child is ashamed to smile because of their teeth. It is sad but true that in schools, on playgrounds, in offices and social circles people are ridiculed for crooked teeth. Braces are simply becoming more accepted than crooked teeth because they are considered a pro-active approach to treating crooked teeth. This leads us to our last reason.
As individuals, we all want to achieve our highest potential. Reaching this level requires hard work, determination, confidence and self-esteem. We must perceive ourselves positively if we are to attain this level of accomplishment. As I have seen in my patients, the transformation from low self-esteem and confidence to high self-esteem and confidence after treatment – is priceless. To be able to smile without fear of ridicule, to be able to express oneself and to feel confident is important for children and adults alike. With braces becoming more widely accepted, it is what makes transformations like this possible.
To summarize all the points that we discussed; we are seeing braces more often these days for the following seven reasons:
- Poor diet and brushing habits can lead to an early loss of baby teeth.
- Most families delay the first orthodontic consultation until a child is in their teens, which is far too late. The first orthodontic screening should be completed by no later than age seven.
- Orthodontically straightened teeth are much easier to maintain and therefore remain longer in the mouth. Overall, this adds to the list of benefits and reasons why one should pursue orthodontic treatment.
- Socially, braces are more widely accepted than ever before. So much so, that in some instances, having braces is more acceptable than having crooked teeth.
- New technology has improved the appearance of braces (i.e. smaller, more aesthetic, clear treatment options).
- Orthodontic treatment has a positive effect on confidence, self-esteem, and personality development.
- Straighter teeth are more aesthetically pleasing.