It is common knowledge that braces treat misaligned, crooked, and gappy teeth helping them become straighter, more aligned, and aesthetically pleasing, but something that is less known is how braces can and are being used to influence the structure of the jaw.
In some cases, the severity of malocclusion can impact the alignment of the jaw and in turn, impact our facial features. Let’s take a look at how braces can help jaw alignment and improve our overall confidence and oral health.
What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a specialised branch of dentistry focused on diagnosing, preventing, and correcting dental and facial irregularities, including problems with teeth alignment and jaw structure. Braces are one of the most common tools used by orthodontists to achieve these goals, which include fixed metal and ceramic braces, lingual braces, and clear aligners.
How Do Braces Work?
Braces work by applying constant and gentle pressure to the teeth and jaw to change their position. The metal brackets and wires on fixed braces, over time, will move the teeth into the desired position, which is overseen by your orthodontist. Your orthodontist will tweak the wires of your braces, to influence where each tooth needs to move and extra measures such as rubber bands can be used to impact the movement of the jaw.
Can Braces Affect Facial Features and the Jaw?
In short, yes, braces can affect the position and alignment of your jaw, which in turn can appear to change your facial features. During childhood, our jaws can develop at different rates which can in turn create issues with our bite, causing crossbite, overbite, and underbite.
Orthodontic treatment does not directly affect facial features such as the length of your face or the shape of your nose, rather the angles are affected. The angle between your nose and lips and your chin and lip can change with treatment, therefore making the nose and other features appear slightly different.
People with moderate to severe skeletal issues see more noticeable changes to their facial features, while for those with issues like crooked teeth but a normal bite, the changes may see minimal to none.
The relationship between braces and jaw alignment can be summarised to:
- Correction of Bite Issues – braces are primarily used to address malocclusions, which are problems with the alignment of the upper and lower teeth when the jaws close. There are various types of malocclusions, including overbites, underbites, and crossbites. By exerting pressure on the teeth over time, braces gradually shift them into proper alignment, improving the bite and jaw positioning.
- Jaw Growth Modification – in some cases, especially when orthodontic treatment is initiated at a young age, braces can influence jaw growth. Orthodontists may use appliances such as headgear or functional appliances to guide the growth of the jaw in a desired direction. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with severe jaw discrepancies, like a significant overbite or underbite.
- Improved Facial Aesthetics – proper alignment of the teeth and jaws can enhance facial aesthetics. When teeth are aligned correctly, it can create a more harmonious facial profile by improving the balance between the upper and lower jaw, leading to a more symmetrical appearance.
How The Jaw Changes Through the Treatment Process of Braces
Depending on the type of malocclusion being treated, this can impact how the jaw changes and moves into its new position.
Most people have some degree of overbite, as it is where the upper teeth significantly overlap the lower teeth. However, if the space between the upper and lower teeth is overly large, braces may be needed for correction. The position of the upper jaw in an overbite can make the chin and lower lip look smaller, braces can correct the jawline and bring the upper and lower arches together to increase the lower lip support.
An underbite is where the lower teeth sit in front of the upper teeth when closing the mouth, making the lower jaw stick out. Correcting the lower and upper teeth in an underbite, to come together properly can reduce the chin position and change facial appearance in the process.
This is where the upper and lower teeth do not meet when the mouth is closed, making biting, and chewing food difficult. Braces can close the space between the lower and upper teeth, allowing them to close properly, therefore enhancing the appearance of the cheeks and lips and preventing the lower face from appearing overly long.
A crossbite is where some of the bottom teeth sit in front of some of the upper teeth. If crossbite is moderate to severe, some people can shift their jaw to one side to compensate for jaw structure and create a more asymmetrical facial appearance. Braces can correct a crossbite by shifting the soft tissues into better alignment.
Can Age Impact the Successfulness of Orthodontic Treatment?
The earlier dental and jaw issues are addressed the better. Certain issues affecting the skeleton, like underbite and overbite can be easier to address when younger, as the jaw is still developing and therefore easier to guide into the correct alignment.
That said, it is still possible to treat malocclusion when jaw development is complete, and dependent on the severity of the issue, orthodontic surgery may be needed alongside braces treatment.
Talk to a Specialist Led Orthodontist in Darwen
If you have noticed a significant impact on your oral health due to a misaligned jaw or bite issues, then you may benefit from speaking to our friendly and helpful orthodontist in Darwen. Darwen Orthodontics is a specialist-led orthodontic practice, which employs a team of friendly, passionate, and enthusiastic professionals who work toward providing the best possible care and achieving the best possible results.
Contact us today, your local orthodontist in Darwen, to book your free consultation and make a step toward achieving the smile you always dreamed of.