Bad Teeth

By dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell

Bad teeth cause a lot of issues, from an unattractive smile to bad breath to serious medical problems. But what do we mean by the phrase "bad teeth"? It can mean different things to different people.

Let's start with the simplest things that someone may call teeth that are bad, and go through the other, more involved teeth problems, and the issues they can cause.

The simplest case of bad teeth is teeth that are not straight - crooked teeth. BUT how crooked do they have to be before it causes a problem? There are many top film stars with crooked teeth, but people either don't notice or don't think it's a problem.

For example, if you look carefully at a close-up photo of Tom Cruise, his teeth may appear straight. BUT if you look carefully, especially at older photos, you may notice that the "center line" of his upper front incisors are actually off to one side. In the photo below, you can see that when he was young, he didn't have great teeth, but even after dental treatment, his front teeth are still off to the left. BUT nobody seems to notice much. So teeth that are slightly out of line do not cause problems.

Bad teeth.In the photo on the right, the front teeth are off to Tom's left side.

But what about teeth that are more crooked than that? What about actress Keira Knightly, below? It doesn't seem to have damaged her career too much!

bad teethKeira Knightley - crooked teeth

Bad Teeth

BUT sometimes teeth that are actually just crooked can look like bad teeth.

bad teethThe small tooth looks bad, but it's just set back and sitting in shadow.
Bad teethAfter composite bonding.

In the photos above, the tooth looked quite bad, but in fact the problem was just that to tooth was REALLY crooked! Bonding some tooth-colored filling material to build the tooth up was a simple and effective solution.

So far, these "bad teeth" have only caused cosmetic problems, not any health issues. But let's look at one more case of bad teeth causing cosmetic embarrassment. In the images below, the two dark teeth had died. They had received root canal treatment, but also needed composite bonding to hide the dark color. Bonding is more conservative and cheaper than caps/crowns.

bad teethbad teeth due to color
bad teethAfter composite bonding.

What about bad teeth causing medical problems?

There is some evidence that severely crooked teeth can cause uneven tooth wear, because the teeth are not meeting evenly when you bite. Some teeth may receive a lot more wear than others, leading to sensitivity and possibly tooth nerve pain.

Next, crooked teeth that do not meet evenly when you bite may trigger bruxism, which is tooth clenching and/or grinding, especially when you are asleep. This clenching can cause migraine headaches in some people, and also jaw joint pain ("TMJ") issues.

Finally, severely crooked teeth can make it difficult to brush your teeth properly, and get floss between your teeth. This leads to gum disease, which leads on to the general health issues in time.

Crooked teeth are not bad teeth as such, but can lead to problems. You can improve the situation with some braces and tooth straightening.

Once gum disease gets started, it can be a slippery slope over a few years as things get worse. The teeth may be quite straight, but the gums will look red and inflamed, and people can see plaque build-up and staining on the teeth. They may say "Oh, he's got bad teeth", but actually the teeth themselves may be OK, it's the gums and the gum disease that make things look bad.

As well as looking bad, you are highly likely to have bad breath.

What are the health issues that gum disease is linked to?

1. Osteoporosis - weak bones. If you have a fall, you are more likely to break a bone, and the healing of the broken bone will be slower.

2. Heart disease. If you have significant gum disease, you are twice as likely to have a heart attack.

3. Diabetes. This works both ways - if you already have diabetes, then gum disease makes it harder for you to control. And if you have gum disease, you are more likely to develop diabetes in the first place.

4. Dementia. Recent research published in New Scientist points to a connection between gum disease and the risk of getting Alheimer's Disease.

That's a pretty heavy list of general medical problems that are directly linked to bad teeth and gum disease!

bad teethThese teeth look bad, but is't gum disease that is the problem.
bad teethThe red gums of gum disease - this is an extreme example

Bad Teeth Treatment

What's the treatment for bad teeth and gum disease?

There are a few steps to get things back to normal.

1. You need to see a dentist and probably a dental hygienist, to clean your teeth and get the inflammation to settle down.

2. Then you need to start brushing your teeth correctly, and for longer. The dental hygienist will help you, and show you what to do.

3. You will need to start flossing, to clean between your teeth, where a normal toothbrush does not go. You can also use very small brushes that will go between your teeth. Again, your dental hygienist will show you what to do.

I do not generally recommend using any mouthwash on a regular basis. Mouthwash does not get under the gum edge properly, to kill the bacteria under the gum edges. That's what flossing is for! But if your gums are severely inflamed, then an anti-bacterial mouthwash can help for 1 to 2 weeks. But not longer. You can read more about curing gum disease at my page HERE.

What other bad teeth are there?

Apart from gum disease, you can also call teeth with cavities and missing teeth "bad teeth". Here are a few images;

bad teethBad Teeth - before treatment
bad teethbad teeth - fixed!
bad teethmissing teeth
bad teethMissing teeth replaced with a denture

As you can see, some bad teeth problems are actually cosmetic, some are actually gum disease issues, and some are decayed teeth and missing teeth.

All these bad teeth issues can be fixed one way or another, and some of them carrying severe health warnings!

Page written by dentist Dr. Richard Mitchell  LinkedIn Profile


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