Develop gum disease and if you’re not steadfast it can trigger heart disease. Notice a lot of thrush developing on your tongue and cheeks, it’s time to get tested for HIV. A lot of matters of health are matters of the mouth. How about vice versa? Let’s take a look at how overall physical health issues impact your dental situation, such as teeth and bite patterns—aka malocclusion.
Why It Matters
First, let’s understand that misaligned teeth and bite patterns are not merely a matter of cosmetics. Crooked teeth, misaligned bites, these make it difficult to properly chew (and enjoy) certain foods. Avoiding healthy, fiber-packed foods that may require more chewing leads to its own health impacts. And, it makes it more difficult to clean one’s teeth after enjoying said food. That being said, it’s not hard to see why the risk of tooth decay, cavities and gingivitis all increase for people with malocclusion.
The thing most likely to determine your teeth and bite patterns is genetics. What you hope your ancestors gave you is an overbite—but the slightest one possible. In other words, your upper teeth should overlap your lower teeth. That little bit creates your best bite. That’s because it allows your molars to do what they were designed to do—crush food using their offset ridges and grooves.
Genetics happens before we are born, but in the three or so years following that, a lot of other stuff can happen impacting teeth and bite patterns. The toughest part is, much of those things are well-intentioned. For instance, dentists have long understood that thumb sucking, tongue thrusting (pushing one’s tongue against the back of the teeth), and using pacifiers and bottles past the age of three all impact bite patterns.
If all of that stopped for you after the age of three, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Many of us grind our teeth and thrust our tongues in our sleep or unconsciously when we’re awake and stressed. So, if you’re experiencing anxiety or other stress-related health issues, you may trigger dental conditions, too.
It turns out size matters when it comes to tonsils. A 2010 peer-reviewed study out of Brazil concluded that different sites of obstruction of the upper airway due to enlarged lymphoid tissue (tonsils are an accumulation of lymphoid tissue) are associated with different types of dental malocclusion.
Other parts of the lymphoid system can enlarge around the neck and mouth area, too. That’s one reason we always poke and prod your throat area a little bit when performing a dental exam or cleaning your teeth. It’s all part of our closed-loop called the human body, whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.