Braces may straighten teeth but they don’t stop decay

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braces and decay

A commonly held belief among the general public is orthodontic treatment will prevent future tooth decay, however, new Australian research has found this is not the case. 

A study conducted by Dr Esma Dogramaci and Professor David Brennan from the Adelaide Dental School—and published in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology—assessed the long-term dental health of 448 people from South Australia.

“Patients often complain about their crooked teeth and want braces to make their teeth straight so they can avoid problems, like decay, in the future,” Dr Dogramaci said.

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The study, which followed people from the age of 13 until they were 30, recorded patients’ dental health behaviours and the number of decayed, missing or filled teeth.

“By the age of 30 over a third of participants had received orthodontic treatment,” Dr Dogramaci said.

“There is a misconception amongst patients that orthodontic treatment prevents tooth decay, but this is not the case.”

The cost of orthodontic treatment, in which crooked teeth are realigned using braces worn over several years, varies from approximately AUS$3000 to $13,000 according to the severity of the problems. Braces are becoming increasingly popular, with one in five patients being adults. The global orthodontics market is predicted to be worth more than US$6 billion by 2023.

“Evidence from the research clearly shows that people cannot avoid regularly brushing their teeth, good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups to prevent decay in later life,” Dr Dogramaci said.

“Having your teeth straightened does not prevent tooth decay in later life.”

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