The dawning of a new decade prompts some people to self-reflect and set goals that go beyond New Year’s resolutions.  Where do they see themselves in 10 years? Perhaps another question they might ask is, What do they see now . . . literally when looking in the mirror?

Does your reflection showcase a natural, attractive, healthy smile? Numerous studies have shown that a confident smile is often a bridge to success, strongly impacting others, and creating a positive image of the smiler. On the flip side, oral health issues or crooked teeth can cause people to keep their mouth closed, betraying a lack of confidence.

More adults today are pursuing orthodontic treatment to straighten their teeth or receive oral rehabilitation, and statistics show that self-esteem significantly increases as a result.

“Along with the health benefits of straight teeth is the increased self-confidence that comes with a beautiful smile,” says Dr. Ana Castilla, an orthodontist and author of the book The Smile of Your Life: Everything You Need to Know for Your Orthodontic Journey (www.castillaortho.com).

“Improved self-confidence affects every aspect of your life – more ease in social situations, and better chances of success in school and work.” Dr. Castilla says straight teeth and a confident smile can bring these six primary benefits for the long haul:

  • Gum protection. Periodontal (gum) disease affects nearly half of U.S. adults aged 30 or older, and research shows a link between gum disease and the loss of bone and teeth. That can happen as a result of crooked teeth. “Red and swollen gums (side effects of gingivitis or periodontal disease) can result from crowded or malpositioned teeth since this makes them much more difficult to clean,” Dr. Castilla says. “Having straight teeth and a good bite ensures that your dental hygiene efforts are more successful. Straight teeth and a resulting good bite also distribute chewing forces evenly so that there are no teeth that are hitting excessively hard, which can lead to gum recession and even loose teeth due to occlusal (bite) trauma.”
  • Easier cleaning, better overall health. Studies have shown a connection between oral health and overall health. The mouth is the entry point to the digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems and without proper oral hygiene, bacteria teeming in the mouth can cause disease. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, multiple studies have shown that gum disease is associated with heart disease and can even exacerbate existing heart conditions. Straight teeth are easier to keep clean and clean teeth contribute to overall health. “By simply aligning your teeth,” Dr. Castilla says, “all surface areas of the teeth will be easily accessible and can be brushed and flossed effectively.”
  • Better digestion. Teeth not aligned correctly affect chewing. “Not chewing properly consequently causes digestive problems, because more digestion has to be done in the stomach,” Dr. Castilla says. “That leads to not receiving full nutrition from your food.”
  • Mood elevation.“More studies are finding that positive thinking and a brighter attitude has a greater influence on our health and state of well-being,” Dr. Castilla says. “A smile causes your brain and others to react positively. The brain releases endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, the body relaxes, and our heart rate and blood pressure are lowered.”
  • Better job prospects. It’s well-documented that one’s appearance makes a difference in their ability to get hired. Studies show a confident smile is central to an attractive appearance. “People with a straight smile are much more likely to get hired over someone with the same qualifications, but with a crooked smile,” Dr. Castilla says.
  • Consistent dental care. Those with poor oral health tend to put off dental visits because of embarrassment. “But deciding your oral health is important for the long run and having teeth you are proud of will bring you back for regular checkups,” Dr. Castilla says. “And it will incentivize you to maintain good habits.”

“It’s been shown many times that a smile connects people and leaves a lasting impression,” Dr. Castilla says. “The start of a new decade might be time to consider the long-term positives of consistent oral health accented by an attractive smile.”