If your goal is to become a better athlete, you might practice diligently, hire a trainer or take lessons.

New research states that another way to improve your skills and prevent injury may be found in the orthodontist’s office.

Two studies have found that orthodontic treatment can lead to better balance and posture, in addition to a more aesthetically pleasing smile, teeth and jaws that are aligned for proper function, and improved self-esteem.

Conducted through a collaboration between the Department of Physiology at the University of Barcelona in Spain and the University of Innsbruck in Austria, researchers found that malocclusion – bad bite – is associated with postural and balance control. They concluded that postural control can be improved when malocclusions are addressed by shifting the jaw into a neutral position. One study showed that improper tooth alignment could adversely affect a person’s ability to control static balance.

The second study revealed that balance improved once “malocclusions were corrected, and had a greater impact on postural control when subjects were fatigued than when they were rested,” according to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry.

It is possible that this link is explained through neurophysiology. The ability to control your posture comes from a system of “sensory and motor elements arising from visual, somatosensory and vestibular information,” one researcher reported.

This interesting research went on to suggest that the general population could achieve posture and balance benefits from orthodontic treatment, but noted that athletes in particular might consider it as a defense against falls and instability.

Your bite influences your standing balance when you’re on an unstable platform, and that influence increases after intensive exercise, the research found.

Scientists believe this relationship in athletes can play a pivotal role in their athletic performance, “as well as in the prevention of injuries such as sprains, strains and fractures caused by unexpected instability as fatigue increases and motor control capacity decreases,” according to Science Daily.

The key to increasing stability is getting the jaw into a neutral position. Achieving that requires various approaches according to the type of malocclusion.

Many signs of malocclusion are easy to identify. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Overjet– This is commonly called “buck teeth,” and it describes upper front teeth that protrude outward.
  • Misplaced midline- The upper front teeth don’t line up evenly with the center of the lips, nose and lower front teeth.
  • Crossbite– The upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth on one or both sides.
  • Overbite– The upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth too far.
  • Underbite– The teeth in the lower jaw are in front of the teeth in the upper jaw.
  • Open bite– The front teeth do not overlap the lower teeth when the jaws are closed.

Does this mean that athletes one day will seek orthodontic treatment in an effort to improve their performance while playing sports? Perhaps only time and more research will tell.

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