Braces are medical devices used to straighten and align the teeth, improving their overall positioning in the mouth. Simply put, braces are used to either enhance the appearance of teeth or more commonly, to rectify dental anomalies. Despite their usefulness, however, braces can have an impact beyond just the mouth. For example, they can affect the sinuses.
Depending on how they’re installed, braces can impact the sinuses positively or negatively. On the one hand, they can alleviate pressure in the mouth cavity and prevent sinus congestion. However, they can also exert pressure on the jaw, forcing the sinuses to narrow and work less efficiently.
Sinuses — the Maxillary sinuses to be specific — can also contribute to teeth problems. They’re so close to the upper teeth nerves that any inflation in the lining of the sinuses can at times feel like a toothache. So let’s take a closer look at how the sinuses play a role in your dental health and how braces can affect them.
How Are Braces and Sinuses Related?
Before we get into how sinuses and braces are related, it’s a good idea to start by defining what sinuses actually are and how they function.
Sinuses are passageways located in the skull and around the nose. The human body consists of four pairs of sinuses: maxillary, sphenoid, frontal, and ethmoid.
They serve a multitude of purposes such as providing a passageway for incoming air, protecting the face against injury, and providing insulation against sudden cold temperatures. Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses, and it can be chronic or acute. This is what most people refer to as “having sinus.”
But how are the sinuses related to braces? It all has to do with the positioning of braces. Not all sinuses are affected by braces; they only affect the maxillary sinuses. The maxillary sinuses are located near the maxillae, or upper jaw, hence the name.
The maxillary sinuses are sensitive to disruptions in the upper jaw. Given that braces are installed in the upper jaw, it’s natural to assume that they might affect the maxillary sinuses and cause sinusitis. While that’s a possibility, the likelihood of it happening is actually very slim.
A Few Ways Tooth Structure Affects Your Sinuses
The maxillary sinuses are located very close to the upper jaw, so any perturbations there can directly affect them. That includes the following:
As we explained above, the space between the upper jaw, where the upper teeth anchor into the mouth, and the floor of the maxillary sinuses is quite narrow. Any further narrowing of that space as a result of misaligned teeth can build pressure in the sinuses and trigger fluid build-up.
Again, given that the maxillary sinus are very close to the point of attachment of teeth in the upper jaw, any infection in the upper teeth can also feed into the maxillary sinuses.
Some Common Side Effects of Having Braces
The benefits of getting braces are evident, but oftentimes not enough light is shed on the possible adverse effects of orthodontic treatment. It’s very common to experience side effects shortly after getting braces.
This is mostly the result of your body adjusting to the new devices, but in some cases, it could be a sign of a more serious complication. Here are a few of the common side effects:
It will take some time for your teeth, gums, and lips to grow accustomed to the foreign material in your mouth. As a result, you’ll likely experience irritation inside the mouth cavity and on your lips. The irritation usually goes away on its own after about a week or two, but you can try the following to speed up the process:
- Using an ice pack
- Opting for soft foods
- Massaging your gums regularly
- Using an over-the-counter irritation reliever(on Amazon)
As your dentist adjusts and tightens the braces and wiring on your teeth, a bit of discomfort is to be expected, but the pain shouldn’t be unbearable.
Give it a maximum of a week, and the pain will surely disappear. In some cases, this discomfort can trigger headaches and migraines that can easily be treated with over-the-counter pain medication (on Amazon).
Dentists often recommend that patients adopt a soft food diet for a few days following the installation or retightening of braces. In addition, dentists also recommend the use of Tylenol (on Amazon) as a way to manage discomfort.
Less-Common Side Effects and When to See a Doctor
Experiencing a few minor side effects after an orthodontic treatment is normal, but it doesn’t rule out the possibility of more severe side effects. These are adverse effects that necessitate professional attention if they occur:
Normally, certain ligaments found in the mouth hold the teeth in place inside their sockets. In the absence of these ligaments, a tooth may sink into the gums and fuse with surrounding bones and tissues.
This is known as tooth ankylosis. There are many causes of ankylosis, but dental trauma is the leading cause. Braces can at times be too tight, and this can cause dental trauma.
Due to the overall discomfort, some people with braces fail to practice proper hygiene habits. As a result, decaying teeth are very common in people who wear braces. Decaying teeth are not to be taken lightly as they can have serious effects on the entire mouth.
In some rare cases, the latex rubber or the metal used in braces can result in allergic reactions. For this reason, orthodontists sometimes use substitute metals and latex-free braces when dealing with a patient prone to allergic reactions.
How Braces Can Improve Your Sinuses
Braces can alleviate sinus issues by expanding the mouth cavity and improving teeth positioning. Unbeknownst to many, braces can positively impact your sinuses in several ways:
Reduces Pressure on Sinuses
The sinuses adapt to the shape and structure of the teeth and mouth cavity. Anomalies in the mouth structure often spill over to the sinuses. A good example is the tightening of maxillary sinuses triggered by overcrowding in the mouth. Using braces widens the mouth, which relieves some of the pressure from the sinuses.
While jaw misalignment is often treated with physical therapy or corrective surgery, braces and retainers can sometimes fix the issue if it’s caused by teeth misalignment. The issue with a misaligned jaw is that it exerts pressure in the sinuses, so, naturally, treating it also improves the sinuses.
The Final Word
Braces can impact the sinuses both positively and negatively, depending on the circumstances. If installed in a way that expands the mouth cavity and corrects teeth structure, it can reduce sinus pressure and prevent sinus congestions and fluid build-up.
On the downside, the sinuses are likely to be affected by bacterial infections, and other complications present in the upper teeth.