The most recognized dental problems are tooth decay and gum disease, but one dental problem that can frequently be overlooked is occlusion. Occlusion is the relationship between the upper and lower teeth when biting together or chewing. When teeth bite together in a “normal” bite, all of the teeth should contact each other evenly at the same time. If the teeth or jaws do not align this is called malocclusion, and this can lead to a number of dental problems. Many times if your bite is off it can cause more pain and destruction than the more commonly recognized problems of tooth decay or gum disease.
If you are having problems with your bite, you may have experienced some of the following:
- tooth sensitivity
- worn/chipped/cracked teeth
- crowding or shifting of teeth
- jaw pain/popping/clicking
- recession or bone loss around teeth (gum disease)
- inability to chew effectively
Some of the treatments for different occlusal problems include:
- protecting the teeth with a dental mouth guard
- stabilizing the jaw and muscles with bite splint therapy
- adjusting teeth
- replacing missing teeth
- orthodontic treatment to align the teeth
- rebuilding teeth with fillings or crowns
For patients with a bite discrepancy, it is important to stabilize the jaw and bite before starting any definitive treatment on the teeth (fillings or crowns). The cause of the problem must be evaluated so that a proper treatment plan can be developed. In order to do that, we need to evaluate patients in a more comprehensive way. It is important to figure out the root of what is causing the problem in order to promote long-term dental health. For example: if you were to need a crown on your tooth because the previous filling or tooth was cracked and breaking down, and fix that first before stabilizing the bite, the same thing could happen to the tooth in a few years. It is important to know why and what the cause of the cracked tooth is. Too often dental treatment is started before a comprehensive diagnosis is made, which could lead to disappointing results and consequences.
By studying the relationship between your teeth and jaw, correcting your bite and then fixing your teeth, the result will be a beautiful, long-lasting smile that works!