A s self-conscious adolescent, the idea of having braces horrified Caroline Bishop - the thought of the pain and the ugly metal train tracks made her cringe. So, against dentists’ advice, she chose to live with her wonky teeth and overbite.
But, as we age, our gums can weaken and teeth move, so, over the years, Bishop’s overbite became far more pronounced. That’s why, two years ago, at the age of 55, she decided to take her oral health seriously and spoke to her dentist about a brace. “I just couldn’t put it off any longer,” said Bishop, a mother of two from Reading in the UK. “As well as hating how they looked, I was told my teeth could cause health issues in the future, too.”
Overlapping teeth are more difficult to clean, especially as dexterity and eyesight diminish with age, so plaque and bacteria can build up in hard-to-reach crevices of the mouth, potentially leading to gum disease.
This has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and lung infections. Even the pressure exerted by one tooth pushing against another at the wrong angle for years can cause a tooth to crack or fall out.
“If you have overlapping teeth, cleaning or flossing can be difficult and becomes even more so as you age,” said Dr Richard George of the British Orthodontic Society. “So plaque builds up and the gums become inflamed - and this can increase vulnerability to gum disease and potential tooth loss. For some people, it may be that having braces finally gives them the chance to clean their teeth properly and prevent gum disease and tooth loss.”
Teeth-grinding could also be a problem, said dentist Dr Biju Krishnan of The London Centre for Cosmetic Dentistry. “This can cause the teeth to crack, shorten or move under pressure, which is why some people may require braces.”