First off, straight teeth contribute to a nicer smile. Many studies have shown that an attractive smile boosts self-esteem which is important at any age. For children, the development of a positive self-image can carry forward throughout life and contribute to future success. For adults, self-esteem is critically important in many professional settings and social situations.
As important as appearance can be, the benefit of braces goes beyond just aesthetics. Straight teeth help an individual more effectively bite, chew, and even speak. It may come as a surprise that straight teeth contribute to healthy teeth and gums. Straighter teeth are easier to brush, clean, and floss! The ability to take better care of the teeth through oral hygiene also helps prevent future cavities and periodontal disease. The latter problem is of particular concern because over time it can lead to destruction of the bone that holds the teeth in place.
Properly aligned teeth and jaws may also alleviate unnecessary wear and grinding. It is known that malocclusion – or a “bad bite” – can lead to problems with the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) and even ineffective chewing and digestive problems. In extreme cases, chronic headaches and back or neck pain can result.
Furthermore, straight teeth are less prone to injury. Protruding upper teeth are more likely to be broken or traumatized in an accident. Once repositioned and aligned, these teeth are at a decreased risk of being fractured. So in many ways, an attractive smile is a pleasant “side effect” of orthodontic treatment… although many patients actually view it as the primary benefit.
Orthodontics goes beyond just the mouth, however. Proper treatment can bring the teeth and lips into proportion with the jaws and face. Investing in orthodontics to correct a problem early in life is generally less costly than the restorative dental care required to treat more serious problems that can develop in later years.
The American Dental Association along with the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have a check-up no later than age seven. Although only a few orthodontic problems need to be corrected at that age, an early exam allows the orthodontist to offer advice and guidance as to when the appropriate age to start treatment would be.