It’s that pumpkin spice time of year when the leaves are aglow with majestic hues of red and yellow, and fireplaces are dusted off and turned back on to keep us snuggly as we sip our coffee and tea. And while you consider how to carve your pumpkin, consider the mouth – and more specifically, your smile. Teeth gaps look really neat in pumpkins but can be problematic in humans. While some may find teeth gaps endearing, read on to learn the hidden problems they can cause if left untreated.
- TMJ Disorder. Space between teeth permits the remaining teeth to move further out of place. Wouldn’t you want to spread out rather than sit right up against a person if you had the choice? The shifting of teeth misaligns the bite, which can cause pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) due to clenching and grinding. If your mouth is imbalanced or misaligned, one area of your bite will hit differently than the others. To resolve this, you will likely subconsciously grind and wear things down to balance your bite.
- Broken teeth. If you grind your teeth, your risk of broken teeth grows exponentially. Spaces between teeth put pressure on the remaining teeth when doing things such as eating, talking, and even resting. Pressure on the teeth wears them down faster and can cause teeth to drift into empty spaces, leading to tissue and bone recession. Think of an 18-wheeler with a missing wheel. The other wheels take on the pressure or weight of the truck, which wears out the tires, axles, etc., much faster than if things were balanced. Moral: When things are unbalanced, they are more likely to cause more significant issues.
- Overlapping teeth. As mentioned previously, teeth that have space to move will. If you have teeth gaps, your teeth will shift toward the tongue. This is most often seen on the bottom front teeth. They begin to shift and lean forward.
- Headaches. An unbalanced bite can cause headaches. If your premolars were removed as a kid, there is about a 99.5% chance that you are grinding your teeth and/or have sleep apnea. Losing two teeth on the top and bottom shifts things forward, which causes an imbalanced bite – regardless of whether or not you got braces after your premolars were removed.
- Gum disease. Gum disease is more common in people with gaps between their teeth. This is because food is more likely to get caught, leaving bacteria to grow and decay. Plus, flossing when you have gaps in your teeth can be more problematic if you scrape away at your gums every time you floss. These seemingly minor irritations of the gum can weaken it and lead to gingivitis, periodontitis, and cavities. It can also cause the gums to bleed, which isn’t exactly a picnic.
- Chewing problems. We’ve discussed how spaces between the teeth can cause imbalances in your bite. This imbalance can impact how effectively you chew. Have you ever had pain in your mouth that caused you to chew on one side of it? Imagine the damage this can cause over time. Not only do you risk choking due to inadequately chewing your food, but you also can break and chip your teeth. Not fun at all!
- Stinky breath. Food stuck between your teeth – even minuscule amounts invisible to the naked eye- is a breeding ground for bacteria. And if you’ve ever left the milk out on the counter too long, you know that bacteria make things smell bad. If you want to avoid bad breath, get those teeth gaps fixed.
The moral of the story is that gaps between teeth aren’t a good thing. Teeth should fit together like a puzzle piece. If your smile looks more like that pumpkin, you’re planning to carve this month, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andy and explore customized smile makeover options based on your needs and goals.