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Is my problem functional or aesthetic?

By Anthony July 12, 2016

Your smile has a huge impact on your quality of life, but orthodontics can offer much more than straight teeth – as great as these may be!

So how can you identify whether function or aesthetics should take precedence in your treatment? And what does this mean for you when it comes to choosing the best type of braces for your needs? Here we’ll look at the difference between functional and aesthetic orthodontic issues, and how braces can help.


Aesthetic problems

When it comes to the question of function or aesthetics in dental health, the answer can be more complex than you may think. Strictly speaking, teeth irregularity, overcrowding, crookedness and asymmetric spacing may be aesthetic rather than functional problems for some individuals, depending on whether or not it impedes them in day-to-day life.

Cosmetic improvement is the most common reason that people seek orthodontic treatment – which is hardly surprising given how rapidly a million dollar smile can improve your appearance and self-confidence! But it’s not only your smile that your teeth and jaw determine: the positioning of your teeth can also affect the structure and profile of your face.

What’s more, even aesthetic issues can come with potential health effects. Those with crowded or crooked teeth have a higher risk of tooth decay, cavities and gingivitis since it’s harder for them to get to all the nooks and crannies while brushing and flossing.


Functional problems

Functional orthodontic issues tend to be rarer but more serious, either causing jaw pain or hindering people’s ability to gao about their daily lives – for instance, making it difficult to chew or speak.

Malocclusion, or problems with one’s bite, is a common orthodontic issue and a widespread reason for seeking braces. This becomes a functional rather than a purely aesthetic issue when it affects things like chewing, for instance. Malocclusion can also come with serious side effects such as chronic headaches, obstructed nasal breathing, sleep apnoea syndrome and even back pain.

Facial or jaw asymmetry is another functional issue, causing a higher risk of tooth breakages due to increased strain on your teeth, jaw and facial muscles.

Severe overbite or underbite due to an excessive growth of the lower or upper jaw are other examples of functional hindrances for our teeth. Missing or extra teeth can also be a functional problem in cases where they lead to an asymmetrical, poorly-spaced or crowded bite, making it harder to chew.

Things to look out for when determining whether your problem is functional include irregular gaps, crowding and spacing problems that cause discomfort or pain, protruding teeth or jaws, and if your jaw pops or makes a sound when moving. Functional issues can lead to gum injuries and disease, and abnormal wear and tear on the teeth potentially causing fractures, posing risks for your dental health and well-being overall.


Treatment types

One of the most important things to know before getting braces is the length of time that the various treatment types may take. This is especially important to consider if you’re looking to perfect your smile in the lead-up to a wedding or other time-sensitive special occasion, since adults typically require a lengthier treatment time due to their stronger jaw bones and muscles.


Treatment types include:

  • Traditional metal braces – these are now far less intrusive, uncomfortable and conspicuous than they were in the past thanks to technological improvements.
  • Ceramic braces – these are a less visible alternative to metal braces. They tend to be more delicate however, requiring additional care while eating, brushing and playing sport.
  • Invisalign ® – invisible and removable, this allow for unlimited eating and drinking, making it ideal for those with concerns about how braces might impact their lifestyle. However it’s generally a longer treatment, averaging 12 to 14 months.
  • Lingual or inner teeth braces – another ‘invisible’ option, they are attached to the back of the teeth instead of the front. However they may not be the best choice for severe cases.


Overall, it’s important to take both function and aesthetics into account in your orthodontic treatment – the two are not mutually exclusive.

If you’d like to find out which treatment is best for your personal orthodontic needs, get in touch with the team at Inner West Orthodontics.

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