When it comes to orthodontic treatment, we here at Texas Family Orthodontics know it can have a big impact on your self-esteem. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists tells us that orthodontic treatment is associated with higher self-esteem in both children and adults.
Of course, we don’t just seek orthodontic treatment for issues related to self-esteem. While cosmetic, or esthetic, concerns are a valid and important reason to see your orthodontist, they aren’t the only ones by any means. There are many therapeutic or functional reasons to visit the specialists here at Texas Family Orthodontics as well.
But what are functional problems? And what’s the difference between functional and esthetic issues? How do I know which type of problem I’m dealing with?
Read on to learn more!
Functional vs. esthetic orthodontic issues
The question of whether your orthodontic problem is functional or esthetic might be less straightforward than you imagine. While you might consider issues such as tooth crookedness, overcrowding, or gaps to be functional, they may be considered esthetic if they don’t have a direct impact on your quality of life. And that’s the key issue.
When trying to decide if you have a functional or esthetic issue, you’ll want to ask yourself, “does my problem affect the way I feel about how I look” or “does my problem affect the way I bite, chew, or breathe?”
While it’s good to ask yourself these questions, sometimes problems can go undetected. That’s why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends taking your child to see an orthodontic specialist like Dr. Vo by the time they are seven years old – even if you don’t notice any visible problems with your child’s teeth or bite. Professionals such as Dr. Vo and her team are well-suited to diagnose and determine the degree to which you or your child has a functional or esthetic orthodontic problem. And the earlier we catch these issues, the better.
Functional issues in orthodontics
When we talk about orthodontics and functional issues, it often comes down to an underlying problem in a patient’s bite. Let’s take a look at a few of the different causes and their solutions:
In the case of an overbite, the upper front teeth overlap or cover too much of the lower front teeth in a vertical direction. This is also called a deep bite and can lead to excessive wear and tear of the teeth, particularly the front teeth. Other concerns with an overbite include the possibility of damage to the gum tissue on the roof of the mouth and a less defined jaw profile with a sunken appearance of cheeks.
Traditional or clear braces or even aligners such as Invisalign can correct the issues leading to an overbite.
Also known as an anterior crossbite, this is where the lower jaw sits out in front of the upper jaw. With an underbite, the lower jaw may jut out asymmetrically. Left uncorrected, underbites can lead to excessive stress and pressure on the joints and muscles of the jaw and face. That means tension headaches, tooth grinding, and temporomandibular disorders, or TMJ.
Underbites typically require more aggressive treatment than would be the case for the more common overbites. In more severe cases of underbite, Dr. Vo may refer you to an oral or maxillofacial surgeon with whom she’ll work closely with to reshape the jaw and develop a proper bite.
Crossbite refers to a misalignment of either the teeth, jaws, or both, in which upper teeth sit on the wrong side of the lower teeth. This often becomes worse over time and can lead to issues with adequately chewing food. The sooner this is detected, the better.
A crossbite can result in facial asymmetry by leading to misalignment of the jawbones and uneven engagement of the facial and jaw muscles. Not only can this result in facial asymmetry, but it can lead to additional complications such as TMJ disorders and tension headaches!
Crossbites are generally comfortably handled by various orthodontic treatments, including traditional metal or ceramic braces, Invisalign, or expanders.
Open bites come in two flavors: anterior (front teeth) and posterior (back teeth).
With an anterior open bite, the upper and lower front teeth never meet or overlap when the back teeth are together, causing a visible gap in the front. A posterior open bite is similar, but the front teeth will close properly while the back teeth do not touch.
With severe open bites, as with any severe functional issue, Dr. Vo may refer you to a surgeon who specializes in what’s known as orthognathic surgery. This means the surgeon has gone to great lengths to understand the relationship between the teeth, jaws, and facial structures and is able to align them properly and put them in their correct place.
Dr. Vo will work closely with the surgeon to develop a plan that leads to your best functional and esthetic orthodontic outcome. This includes correcting any incidence of severe facial asymmetry.
Take Charge of Your Treatment at Texas Family Orthodontics
Now that you’ve learned all about the differences between esthetic and functional problems in orthodontics and the types of functional issues, it’s time to give us a call and set up your free consultation! Dr. Vo and her team are dedicated to providing cutting-edge orthodontic care to patients in and around our offices in San Antonio and Windcrest. We love what we do, and we know you will too! Call today!