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A weekly yoga class, running with the dog, and super smoothies — you’re doing lots when it comes to looking after your health. But did you know there’s more to staying healthy than just diet and exercise? Consider your oral health, too.

Ensuring your oral health is in tip-top shape makes a difference to your overall health. And we’re not just talking about brushing and flossing. An aligned bite and straight teeth contribute a lot to your oral health, and in turn, your overall health. Yes, there’s indeed an oral health and overall health connection. What does this look like? Glad you asked! 

As your Raleigh, NC orthodontist, Dr. VanderWall wants to talk about 9 health benefits of getting orthodontic treatment like braces and Invisalign®.

1. Improves Chewing and Digestion

Straight teeth and a strong, aligned bite make it easy to eat and chew a wider variety of foods, including nutrient-dense ones like raw, crunchy vegetables and typical protein sources like meat and fish. You have the freedom to get all your vitamins and minerals. 

In contrast, sometimes crooked teeth, gaps, and misalignments like underbites, overbites, or crossbites make biting or chewing difficult. This can limit your food choices and nutrition, not to mention take the enjoyment out of eating.

On a related note, another health benefit of braces or Invisalign® treatment is healthier digestion. This is because good, efficient digestion starts with well chewed food. A 2001 study found that impaired chewing affected oral bacteria and led to an increased risk of gastrointestinal problems. Another study conducted in 1992 revealed a link between chewing problems and digestive issues like bloating, cramps, and constipation or diarrhea.

2. Controls Harmful Oral Bacteria

Speaking of oral bacteria, too much of it can play a part in serious health conditions. But what exactly is oral bacteria and how do you end up with too much? Oral bacteria, or plaque, is a sticky film that feeds off and multiplies from the sugars and starches you eat. This process releases acids that erode your tooth enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to tooth decay. If you don’t get rid of plaque with good brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar. Tartar then turns into a breeding ground for more bacteria which invites toxins into your gums. 

Excessive oral bacteria can cause periodontal disease — a severe gum infection. Left untreated, periodontal disease can result in tooth loss and bone loss in your jaw. It’s also linked to serious health conditions including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune diseases, premature birth and low birth weight. While additional research is needed to know for sure if periodontal disease is a direct cause, the Mayo Clinic finds that the link alone is enough to highlight the oral health and overall health connection.

Straightening your teeth with orthodontic treatment makes removing plaque easier so you’re less susceptible to gum disease. Straight teeth have fewer nooks and crannies than crooked teeth for food debris and plaque to hide.

3. Reducing Inflammation

No doubt, you have a general understanding of inflammation as the body’s response to something harmful or foreign. Inflammation also signals the start of the healing process. In your mouth, inflammation can come from malocclusion that causes teeth grinding. 

You see, some people subconsciously grind their teeth together in an attempt to stack them properly when they don’t align. Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, leads to uneven or excessive wear on teeth, to gum recession, and puts stress on gums, the jaw and the TMJ. These lead to inflammation and pain in those areas.

Invisalign and braces — like our fully custom LightForce® braces — bring jaws into alignment and straighten teeth into their optimal positions. They can bring tremendous improvement to bruxism and give jaws the chance to heal from TMJ pain. Plus, let’s not forget that the risk of inflammation from gum disease is decreased when you have straight, easier-to-clean teeth. 

4.  Maintaining Healthy Bones of the Jaws

It’s easy to see that your jawbone is a critical part of your facial and oral structures. So it goes without saying that you want to keep it strong and stable. In addition to avoiding periodontal disease, you also want to make sure your teeth are contributing to the health of your jawbone. How do they do that? Teeth that anchor securely into your jawbone provide consistent stimulation through biting and chewing forces. If you’re missing teeth and have gaps in your smile, these areas of your jawbone aren’t being stimulated and can begin to atrophy. Essentially, your jaw bone can begin to reabsorb into your body from lack of use. It’s kind of a use-it-or-lose-it scenario.  

This bone loss in your jaw can result in tooth loss and negatively impact your sinuses. Your facial nerves and muscles can also suffer. Aesthetically, jawbone loss also makes your lower face look shrunken, making you look older and less vibrant.

The fix? Orthodontics treatment. The health benefits of braces and Invisalign includes preserving your jawbone for lifelong support of teeth and facial appearance. Orthodontics aligns your jaws, improving facial appearance and oral functioning. If you have missing teeth, we can coordinate with your dentist who will replace them with dental bridges or tooth implants, filling the gaps and restimulating the jawbone.

5. Protecting your Temporomandibular Joints (TMJ)

We mentioned TMJ when talking about inflammation, now let’s focus on it in more detail. What is the TMJ? Place your fingers on either side of your face, just near the bottom of your ears. Open and close your jaw or bite your teeth together a few times. That movement you feel in the sides of your face are the temporomandibular joints, the connecting point between your lower jaw and skull.

Malocclusion and persistent teeth grinding puts stress on the TMJ, causing inflammation and pain. TMJ dysfunction can also cause headaches and tension in the neck and shoulders — discomfort that can really affect your quality of life. Orthodontic treatment brings your teeth, jaw, TMJ, chewing muscles, and facial structure into harmony, alleviating pain and allowing all to function at their best. So count orthodontic treatment as an answer for how to improve your oral and overall health.

6. Reducing and Alleviating Pain

Chronic pain really lessons your quality of life and prevents you from showing up with your best at work, home, school, or socially. TMJ dysfunction, chewing difficulties, and other complications from crooked teeth and a bad bite cause discomfort: from jaw and  facial pain, headaches and migraines, to neck pain and earaches. 

7. Promoting Nasal Breathing 

Breathing through your nose is the best way to breathe; typically you get more oxygen into your lungs and brain than breathing through your mouth. But what does nasal breathing have to do with the health benefits of orthodontic treatment? 

We’ll put it this way, the palate — the roof of your mouth — is also the floor of your nose. A narrow palate, combined with nasal obstructions, contributes to mouth breathing. Chronic mouth breathing interferes with craniofacial development in kids and increases the risk of sleep-disordered breathing in both little ones and adults. 

The good news is that achieving a wider palate is one of the benefits of braces and Invisalign. A wider palate is known to help open the airway, encouraging better nasal breathing and less congestion.

Helping You Get The Restorative Sleep You Need

8. Helping You Get The Restorative Sleep You Need

Quality sleep is important. We need it to flush toxins from our brains and bodies. We need it to refresh. Kids especially need quality, restorative sleep for optimal development of their minds and bodies. But issues like an obstructed airway or sleep-disordered breathing symptoms like snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, and restlessness prevent you from getting the sleep you need for good health. 

Poor sleep is linked to:

  • Lower performance at school or work
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • ADHD and ADD
  • Behavior issues in kids

There’s also a higher risk of health issues like obesity, stroke, heart disease, and dementia.

Fixing a narrow palate can help open up the airway and alleviate the breathing issues that contribute to poor sleep. In what’s called orthodontic airway treatment, an orthodontist like Dr. VanderWall designs a treatment plan with a focus on making breathing easier. With braces or Invisalign, we look at widening the palate and aligning jaws, as well as straightening the teeth to open the airway and encourage healthy nasal breathing. 

Sometimes for kids, a palatal expander with braces or Invisalign is suggested. For adults, we might opt for jaw surgery to align the jaw forward. In either case, it’s safe to say that the oral and overall health connection is pretty direct when it comes to orthodontic issues, breathing, and sleep! 

9. Boosting Your Self-Esteem and Mental Wellbeing

So we’ve talked at length about the oral health – overall health connection. This most definitely includes your mental health. At VanderWall Orthodontics, the goal for every patient is always a smile on their face and an improvement in their quality of life because of orthodontics.

If you feel self-conscious about how your smile looks, stressed over dental issues, defeated by chronic pain, or frustrated because of poor performance at work, school and daily activities… custom orthodontic treatment can help alleviate these stressors.

Get the health benefits of braces or Invisalign with your Raleigh, Cary, and Durham, SC orthodontist

Now that you’re clear on the connection between your oral health and overall health, are you ready to start your orthodontic journey towards better health and wellbeing?

If so, Dr. VanderWall and the team at VanderWall Orthodontics are here to help. As a top South Carolina orthodontist, you’ll experience high quality care using the latest technology and techniques in a fun and family-friendly atmosphere.
Contact us for a consultation at our Raleigh, Cary, or Durham, SC office.

Dr. Clay VanderWall

Author Dr. Clay VanderWall

Dr. VanderWall attended Kalamazoo College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences. He spent a semester doing research at the Dental Research Center of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he wrote his Senior Individualized Project (SIP). He furthered his studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Dentistry, receiving his Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1999. He graduated with honors and was inducted into the national dental honor society, Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU). He also received the Pierre Fauchard Academy Student Award and was a recipient of the Health Professions Scholarship from the United States Navy.

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