The decision to undergo orthodontic treatment – either for yourself or your children – is a big one that involves two significant areas of your life: time and money.

It requires a portion of your expendable income. You must commit to appointments every six to eight weeks for about 18 to 24 months, on average. You also must be diligent with your oral hygiene and diet to keep your teeth and appliances healthy and properly functioning throughout treatment. The results are worth it.

Still, this commitment can sound like a lot to some, and it’s common for patients and parents to ask, “What will happen if I don’t get braces?” It’s a great question that I am happy to address.

The answer varies from patient to patient and depends on each patient’s unique circumstances.

Minor Spacing and Crowding

Let’s say your teeth have mild spacing or crowding problems. Without orthodontic treatment to correct them, you may need to be more diligent when it comes to brushing and flossing so that bits of food don’t get lodged in the nooks and crannies created by crowded teeth, or in the spaces between teeth. When food particles collect in these areas, they allow harmful bacteria to grow, which can lead to plaque and tartar buildup. Eventually, you could experience tooth decay or gum disease as a result.

Even with a ramped-up home care routine, crooked teeth are more difficult to keep clean. Orthodontic treatment creates adequate space between teeth by closing gaps or creating more space where necessary. When teeth are appropriately spaced and aligned, it’s easier to brush and floss.

If you or your child have a more serious malocclusion, orthodontic treatment becomes more important in terms of preventing future oral health problems.

Overjet

This term refers to the amount of space that exists between the back of your upper front teeth and the front of your lower front teeth when your mouth is closed. People sometimes call this “buck teeth.”

Failure to address overjet leaves the upper front teeth more susceptible to dental trauma. Teeth that stick out are more susceptible to injury when playing sports and participating in extracurricular athletic activities including riding bikes and skateboarding.

Children with malocclusion had a 64 percent higher chance of suffering dental traumas, according to a 2015 study published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research. Overjet was the most prevalent malocclusion among the approximately 600 Brazilian children between ages 2 and 6 who participated in the study. They were three times more likely to experience dental trauma such as tooth loss, fracture and damage to tooth pulp.

A study published in Evidence-Based Dentistry in 2016 found that the greater the overjet, the greater the risk of dental trauma.

In addition to protruding front teeth being more susceptible to injury, treating injured front teeth can be costly, due to the aesthetics involved. The front teeth are the most noticeable, so cosmetics must be at the forefront of treatments involving them.

Orthodontic treatment can effectively shift protruding front teeth into their ideal position and help prevent injury.

Severe Crowding or Crossbite

Patients who have severely crowded teeth or crossbite may experience abnormal tooth wear without orthodontic treatment. This is because severe crowding and crossbite prevent the teeth from being in proper alignment, and that results in teeth making contact with each other in places where they’re not supposed to. In severe cases, improper tooth-to-tooth contact can apply pressure to areas of the tooth that aren’t designed to withstand those forces, and that can cause a tooth to chip, fracture or break.

TMJ Issues

Malocclusion, or “bad bite,” can lead to problems with your temporomandibular joints, which connect the jawbone to the skull. Teeth that don’t align properly may cause the jaw to shift to an unnatural position. This applies an unnatural strain or force to the TMJ and over time, this can lead to joint discomfort and fatigue.

People who suffer from TMJ disorder often experience other symptoms, such as headaches, neck pain, jaw pain and tenderness, ear aches and facial pain.

Orofacial Development

There are some cases in which significant malocclusion or jaw growth discrepancies can adversely alter a child’s oral and facial development as the child grows. Identifying and treating these conditions is one reason why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children be evaluated by an orthodontist by age 7. At this age, children have a mix of baby and adult teeth, and the bite is established. These factors make it easier for an orthodontist to identify a potential problem that might benefit from interceptive treatment.

When a child has a recessed chin or an underbite, for example, we often can use the child’s growth to our advantage by using orthodontic appliances to promote or inhibit jaw growth as necessary to enable the opposing jaw to catch up. These are nonsurgical treatments that can’t be used once the child reaches adulthood and has stopped growing.

Failing undergo orthodontic treatment means the child’s facial features may become further altered, such as a facial profile that appears concave in the case of underbite. Once grown, the only way to address these significant issues is through costly surgery.

Spend Now, Save Later

Investing in orthodontic treatment for yourself or your children is an investment in future oral health. I think you would agree that most people would prefer to prevent a future oral health problem than treat one. A healthy bite goes a long way toward preventing cavities, gum disease and abnormal tooth wear down the road. Treatments for these problems can be costlier the longer you put off addressing them.

I have found that those who invest in orthodontic treatment to improve their smiles tend to be more mindful of ongoing oral hygiene following treatment. Your family dentist and dental hygienist typically only see you twice a year for professional cleanings and checkups, so your day-to-day oral care is most responsible for your long-term dental health. Having your teeth properly aligned and spaced makes your home care routine more effective.

We believe in the psychological and oral health benefits of orthodontic treatment, and we are rewarded daily when we see the smiles of our patients who are happy and confident to show them off as a result of treatment.

Our goal here at Orthodontics Only is to make treatment available to as many people as possible. We accept dental insurance and offer payment plans. If you would like to learn more about how to pay for orthodontic treatment, please visit this page.

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