There are some people who believe that orthodontic treatment can increase your risk of gum disease. But a large new study shows that, over time, the result is the opposite. People who get orthodontics have their gum disease risk cut almost in half!
Nutrition, Medical History, and Oral Health
The data for this study comes from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES). In this study, qualified surveyors were sent to the homes of nearly 15,000 adults to ask them about diet, overall health, exercise habits, and other lifestyle choices. Examiners performed, among other examinations, a brief oral health exam, which determined whether they had gum disease. Gum disease was defined as the existence of a pocket 3.5 mm (~ ⅛ inch) deep between the teeth and gums. Pockets around teeth get expanded when oral bacteria grow in them, damaging the teeth and gums.
To determine the relationship between gum disease and orthodontic work, researchers then correlated the existence of gum disease with a history that included orthodontic treatment. They were able to conclude that people who had gotten orthodontic treatment might have their risk of gum disease cut by as much as 45%.
A Benefit at Any Age Group
Because the sample population includes adults of all ages 19 and up, it allows us to look at the impact of orthodontic treatment on gum disease over a lifetime. And the impact seems to be universally positive.
Some people have charged that short-term benefits of orthodontic treatment might lead to long-term consequences for oral health. If anything, the benefits seemed to increase over time. People over age 60 had the highest difference in gum disease rates between those with or without braces.
Why Orthodontics Can Improve Oral Health
This study reminds us that the benefits of cosmetic dentistry are often more than just cosmetic. In many ways, a healthy smile is a beautiful smile, and vice versa.
So how does orthodontics translate into a healthier smile?
There are two straightforward connections: less food gets stuck in straight teeth, and straight teeth are easier to clean.
When food gets stuck in your teeth, it isn’t just annoying or embarrassing, it’s food for oral bacteria. It allows oral bacteria to keep producing damaging acid for long after you’ve finished eating, which can increase your risk of both tooth decay and gum disease.
In order to clean your teeth properly, you have to be able to reach all parts of your teeth easily. When your teeth are straight, you have maximum access to the surfaces of your teeth. Brushing and flossing can be more complementary. Crooked, crowded, or tilted teeth create awkward spaces that can be very hard to clean, which allows bacteria to persist, producing more damaging acid.
For Beauty, for Health, for Life
There is no doubt that orthodontics can give you a straighter, more beautiful smile. And if it can reduce your risk of gum disease, it can reduce your risk of health consequences that come with gum disease, such as heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. You will live longer, and, because orthodontic results can be maintained for life, you’ll enjoy a straight smile for all of your days.