The decision to have orthodontic treatment is about improving functionality, appearance, confidence. Potential changes carry advantages for the present and future.
That orthodontics works and lasts in a practical sense is beyond doubt, not least when treatment is skilled and individual. Your looks will benefit but what about your long term oral health.
You may have seen varying views in the media, or research with contrasting outcomes. Facts as such are unclear, there is also an issue with the nature of the orthodontics which have been studied.
Looking at the outcome of treatment carried out years ago means measuring historic orthodontic care. Few areas of dentistry have seen such advances in recent years, although past evidence is worth considering.
Research To Date
One of the early concerns was that braces could lead to temporomandibular (jaw joint) disorders, or functional occlusion issues i.e. your upper and lower teeth making contact in a different way could cause damage.
Two detailed studies as far back as 1984 looked at this and concluded there was no evident link. More recent research found a neutral effect, whilst there are a few cases where orthodontics can be used to help.
Studies quoted to suggest there may be long term decay, or gum disease issues tend to be wider studies, not focused on patients with orthodontics treatment. Dedicated research may help more.
A well recognised study looked at 452 patients, 14 years after orthodontic assessment. They offered a typical profile, ranging from no treatment, to standard requirements, to 15% with more severe issues.
This came to the conclusion there was little difference in terms of tooth decay, or periodontal disease. Stating that having your teeth straightened does not prevent tooth decay in later life, just presents an opportunity.
Taking The Opportunity
From patients we have known for years, the narrative suggests a better than neutral outcome. There is also well managed research to support this.
A broad study based on patient input found those orthodontically treated when younger rated their dental appearance as above average. A 2018 study in Germany also found a lower risk for oral health impairment.
The respected Cochrane Institute collated wide research and saw no evidence of a downside. There is data suggesting men who have been treated suffer wider decay than women but this is true of the overall population.
A balanced conclusion is that orthodontic treatment does not cause issues and can encourage people to care for their teeth, bringing better oral health in later life. A view we and our patients would definitely endorse.