Using braces to straighten misaligned teeth is generally safe and effective. However, like any other medical procedure, complications can arise. One of the more serious issues that can occur is a condition called tooth root rot. Here's more information about this problem and what you can do to prevent it from happening.
Tooth Movement May Cause Tooth Shrinkage
Braces put pressure on the teeth and force them to gradually move to a new place in the mouth of a period of years (anywhere from 12 to 36 months). Teeth are normally anchored into the jaw, so moving them necessitates them breaking from the jaw bone and cementing to another area. This happens very gradually, so teeth are never just free floating around in your mouth.
However, on rare occasions, the body will absorb some of the tooth's root, thinking you don't need it. For most people, this only results in a minor degradation along the bottom of the root. A select few patients, unfortunately, react more severely and end up losing a significant portion of the affected teeth. This can result in unattached teeth that may fall out or cause significant problems later on.
Preventing Tooth Rot
It's unknown what causes some patients to develop this condition, but a genetic predisposition to tooth reabsorption may be part of the cause. How you care for your teeth can also contribute to the problem, though. If you develop periodontal disease or the tooth becomes damaged in some way (e.g. demineralized due to trauma), the body may absorb the material as a means of trying to fix the issue. It becomes a case of the cure killing the patient, so to speak.
To minimize the risk of tooth root rot, upping your oral care regiment is paramount. Floss every day, being sure to get between the braces. If using regular string floss is too difficult, consider investing in a water pik. Brush your teeth after every meal to remove food residue that could contribute to tooth decay, and use a medicated rinse to eliminate bacteria.
Another thing you can do is avoid foods that stick to your braces. Not only can these types of foods damage your braces, but they can result in micro trauma to the teeth (e.g. tiny cracks) due to the increased force of the braces pulling against them. The same can be said for hard candies, ice, and similar foods. Limiting your consumption of these items can minimize the damage to your teeth and braces.
Lastly, have your dentist perform x-rays on a regular basis to check for tooth rot. The dentist can prevent further damage by making adjustments to the braces and other treatments. However, the earlier the problem is caught, the better the outcome.
For more information about this issue or to have your other questions about braces answered, contact a local orthodontist. Or, click for more information.