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Orthodontic issues that come back to “bite” as we age

Just like any area of the body, the teeth and jaw feel the impacts of age, while the habits we develop over a lifetime can add up to have dire consequences for our dental health.

That’s why we stress the fact orthodontic treatment isn’t just about having a beaming, straight smile that elicits confidence. It’s also about creating a healthy bite with teeth that align correctly in order to stand the test of time.

Even teeth that appear straight might meet at the wrong angle causing unnecessary wear and strain, while teeth and jaw positioning can contribute to potential issues like mouth breathing and sleep apnoea.

These seemingly small problems might feel insignificant when you’re young, but the truth is they can lead to greater issues, and wider health and dental problems as we age.

This is why we firmly believe and recommend everyone should be assessed by an orthodontist and children should see one between the ages of 7 and 10.

In addition, it’s important to consider an orthodontist a health professional that people should visit throughout the course of their life.

To illustrate, here are some scenarios of orthodontic issues that come back to ‘bite’ as we age…

Jaw misalignment

Jane is 43. In her youth she prided herself on her straight teeth, while her parents felt that because her smile looked good, it was never necessary to take her to an orthodontist.

In the years since, Jane’s lived a healthy life and paid good attention to her dental hygiene. However, a couple of years ago she started to have some trouble with her molars.

Despite diligent brushing, Jane’s back teeth proved prone to cavities. At first one required a root canal due to decay, now others have also been filled.

More recently, the gum beneath the root canal became inflamed and an abscess formed. Jane’s dentist recommended a tooth extraction, and now she’s faced with bone deterioration and excessive strain on her other remaining molars when she chews or bites food.

Extensive consultation with her dentist has revealed a misalignment of Jane’s bite is most likely the initial cause. Over the years Jane’s molars have met at an incorrect angle and have been wearing unevenly, leading to a crack in the now removed molar that allowed in decay.

Now, Jane is facing expensive reconstructive work to implant a tooth in a bid to ensure her other remaining molars are not further affected.  

The takeaway: A visit to the orthodontist in her teens, 20s or even 30s would have identified Jane’s bite misalignment, and orthodontic treatment like braces could have remedied the problem before it permanently impacted her teeth.


Joel is 38. He’s always had an overcrowded lower jaw that sees two of his bottom teeth slightly overlap, with one protruding forward a little.

It doesn’t affect the look of his smile, as he tends to only show his top teeth, so the overcrowding has never worried John too much and he’s never sought orthodontic treatment.

A couple of years ago Joel began to notice the gum beneath the protruding tooth was becoming inflamed. His dentist confirmed the beginning of gum disease and despite John’s best efforts it’s worsening, with the gum beneath that front tooth beginning to recede.

A contributing factor to this gum disease is likely the overcrowding and position of his front tooth, which is harder to access for cleaning, and has allowed bacteria and plaque to form in the gum pocket.

Joel will be paying special attention to this tooth in the coming years, while his dentist weighs the options of what to do next.

Should it continue to progress, the gum disease could result in the loss of that tooth and may also impact the jawbone beneath.

The takeaway: Like Jane, Joel’s problem could have been avoided through orthodontic treatment. Had the bottom jaw been fitted with braces and the teeth straightened, gum disease may have been less likely because the area would have been easier to clean and there might have been less chance of the initial pocket forming.

Teeth grinding

Unlike Jane and Joel, Denise (54) did see an orthodontist in her teens and enjoyed the benefits of braces. But after treatment concluded, she hasn’t seen an orthodontist again.

Denise tends to grind her teeth at night when she’s under stress. She was particularly prone to it after having children in her 30s and her husband often wakes her to tell her she’s grinding again.

Recently, Denise has been experiencing pain in her molar and sensitivity when she eats hot and cold foods. Her dentist has identified the tooth is cracked as a result of the constant grinding strain. Now she’s set to have a crown fitted in a bid to fix the crack.

The takeaway: An orthodontist is a professional that you should revisit throughout your life. Had Denise sought to address her grinding earlier and use a mouthguard at night, the molar would not have been subject to ongoing strain and would have been less likely to crack.   

Mouth breathing

Zoe is just 16 and it’s her first visit to the orthodontist due to her parent’s concerns of teeth overcrowding. Zoe’s mum also happens to mention Zoe is a mouth breather.

It’s an issue recently flagged by her dentist who noted mouth breathing might be responsible for increased cavities in Zoe’s teeth.

Meanwhile, Zoe is staring down the barrel of quite extensive orthodontic treatment that might have been avoided if she had seen an orthodontist earlier.

Ultimately, Zoe’s mouth breathing has resulted in a narrow palate that has contributed to the overcrowding. It has also meant her mouth has been consistently dry at night causing an environment more prone to dental decay.

The takeaway: Although orthodontic treatment will still straighten Zoe’s teeth and the result will be incredible, she would have benefitted greatly from seeing an orthodontist between the ages of 7 and 10.

At this point an appliance might have been fitted to widen the palate and mitigate the potential for extensive treatment later.

The orthodontist would also have worked with other dental and health professionals to address the cause of the mouth breathing and reduce the damage it would cause to the health of her teeth.

The final alignment

All the above examples are an indication of why an orthodontist should be consulted sooner rather than later, and how even small irregularities with the teeth, bite and jaw alignment can compound over time.

We often explain an orthodontic investment at the outset can save people not just money in the future, but also help reduce future problems and eliminate invasive dental work.

About Norwest Orthodontics

Norwest Orthodontics specialises in helping you achieve a great smile, no matter your age. We feature a range of orthodontic treatments that span from early intervention right through to remedial adult work.

We also have a suite of treatments available that include discreet, removeable Invisalign braces, and welcome the opportunity to work with you to achieve the smile you’ve always dreamed of.

You can learn more about our services, or contact us here.

Orthodontic issues that come back to “bite” as we age

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