Your & Your Bite-Occlusal (Bite) Disease

Information from the Pankey Institute

As you chew, your upper and lower teeth come together, pushing against the skull. If you have an uneven bite, missing teeth, or improperly aligned teeth, your muscles work harder to bring the teeth together. If you clench or grind your teeth, the strain only increases.

Teeth are negatively affected by three diseases: decay (cavities), periodontal (gum) and occlusal (bite) disease. Most of us are acquainted with the signs, systems, and treatment of the first two, probably from personal experience.

Dentists are highly trained in the diagnosis and decay and periodontal disease. Through education and experience, the doctor is able to look into the future and recommend appropriate treatment to minimize the effects of these diseases by dealing with them as early as possible. 

Doctors who study at the Pankey Institute learn and develop the skills of recognizing the signs of occlusal disease and in providing appropriate treatment to halt, and often reverse its effects. Recognizing occlusal disease as early as possible increases the probability that you will have young teeth at an old age. Much of the bridgework, the crowns and repairs that adults experience might be avoided if the signs of occlusal disease were recognized and addressed in the early stages.

Your doctor incorporates evaluation of the signs and symptoms of occlusal disease into a comprehensive evaluation, often through the use of study casts (models of your teeth) and occlusal (bite) analysis. Your doctor knows that looking into the future means providing you with all information about what's happening today that will impact your teeth in five, ten, twenty and more years from now.

The Bite Splint

Occlusal Disease therapy commonly begins with a “bite splint”. This hard acrylic appliance is fabricated to fit snugly over either your upper or lower teeth. It becomes a temporary perfect bite for you.

Wearing the bite splint is a time of discovery for both you and your doctor. You will experience what a comfortable difference a stable, solid bite can make on your teeth, your muscles and your jaw. It is likely that many of the signs and symptoms of occlusal disease will diminish or disappear. How long this takes depends on your situation and the signs and symptoms with which you start.

Following a new bite evaluation, your doctor may ask permission to reshape your teeth so they move more smoothly against each other and fit together in the same solid position that you felt with the bite splint. 

Occlusal disease does not always present itself so obviously. Wear, sensitivity, cracks, loose teeth, breaking teeth, sore muscles, painful jaw joints, headaches- these and more can be the effects of occlusal disease. In its early stages, an obvious injury, like a broken tooth, often hides the underlying cause.

In rare cases where the joint has been badly damaged, the bite splint may not achieve the desired results. When this occurs, advanced joint imaging and consultation with a specialist may be necessary to address the changes in the joints.

Whatever is recommended, the best dentist will be sure to spend time ensuring that you know what to expect, and a clear picture of the anticipated outcome. They also will welcome your questions and concerns.

Keeping your teeth in maximum comfort, function, and esthetics for your entire lifetime depends on you. Seeing and addressing the signs and symptoms of the disease process that work against that goal depends on what your dentist knows and discovers. Together you can be an unbeatable team that keeps occlusion working for your health and not against it.

You may have a poor bite if you experience any of the following:

  • You clench your jaw muscles for long periods of time
  • When you wake up in the morning, your jaw muscles feel tired and sore to the touch
  • You experience pain behind the eyes
  • You grind your teeth while you are sleeping
  • Your jaw clicks and pops upon opening
  • Your head or scalp feels painful when you touch it
  • Your ears ache or hear ringing
  • You have neck, shoulder or back pain
  • You feel dizzy