What is occlusal disease?
Did you know your bite plays a major role in your overall dental comfort? When it’s properly aligned, you can chew, speak, and even breathe more easily. However, the opposite also holds true. A misaligned bite can lead to a host of issues, most of which can be attributed to occlusal disease. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at what this disease entails, common symptoms to note, and how to treat it.
Occlusal disease is the destructive process that results from a bite in which the teeth are not properly aligned. Or it can occur when the teeth in your upper and lower dental arches are in incorrect relation to one another. This issue is also called malocclusion.
In short, every time your teeth meet, there is a force applied. An aligned bite is capable of supporting this impact, which protects your teeth, jaw muscles, and jaw joints. If you have an underbite, overbite, or crossbite, the impact could cause major issues with these dental features.
If left untreated, occlusal disease doesn’t only damage your teeth. It can also wear down the bones and gums that support your teeth, as well as your jaw muscles and temporomandibular joints. This is one of the most common jaw pain causes, and it’s important to take action quickly if you notice the signs.
Symptoms of Occlusal Disease
There are a few key symptoms that can help your dentist diagnose occlusal disease. These include:
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Recessed gums
- Worn-down tooth enamel
- Sore teeth
- Tooth sensitivity to thermal changes
- Cracked, chipped, thinned, flattened, or fractured teeth
- Fractured or broken dental work (e.g. fillings or crowns)
- Grooves or indentations on exposed root surfaces
- Sore, achy jaw muscles or jaw joints
- Popping, clicking, or locking jaw joints
- Muscle pain in the head and neck
- Unexplained headaches or frequent tension headaches
- Tooth grinding (bruxism) or other habits that cause teeth to come into contact
- Localized bone loss around teeth
If your bite is misaligned, an eroded biting surface will be one of the first signs of trouble. Once the outer layer of your enamel is worn down, you’ll expose the inner dentin layer. This material is softer and wears more easily.
If the impact occurs toward the front of your bite, you’ll notice that your front teeth may appear smaller than others. If it happens in the back, then your back teeth can erode and become flat. Though it’s common to attribute such changes to aging, your dentist can help identify and treat signs of occlusal disease.
How to Treat It
If your dentist notices signs of occlusal disease, there are steps you can take to reverse or mitigate any damage. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common occlusal disease treatments.
If your condition is mild, your dentist may recommend a mouth guard or nightguard. This is a special device designed to gently correct your bite. It also prevents your teeth from coming into direct contact with one another.
Your dentist will custom-design your mouth guard from a mold of your teeth. It will be made of a hard acrylic outer material and a soft inner lining that goes against your teeth. When you wear your mouth guard, it will shield your teeth and cushion your jawbones and surrounding muscles. This can help reduce your symptoms and discomfort.
Sometimes, orthodontic care is required to correct a misaligned bite. This type of treatment can help ensure that your teeth properly meet and that biting forces are equally applied across your teeth. Orthodontic braces are most commonly suggested as this form of treatment. As with a mouth guard, braces are custom-made to fit your teeth. They can help ease your teeth into a more aligned position and alleviate your discomfort.
Orthodontics work by exerting constant, gentle pressure on your teeth for an extended period of time. The shape of your jaw will gradually adapt and conform to this pressure. In time, your teeth will slowly shift to the desired position. When you use orthodontics to correct malocclusions, you can help preserve your natural teeth. This type of treatment also promotes healthy gums! When your teeth are in proper alignment, it’s easier to brush and floss around them, which can help your teeth remain cleaner between dental appointments.
If your occlusal disease is advanced, your dentist may recommend a dental restoration to correct it. This is most often suggested as a form of treatment if your malocclusion has progressed to the point that it has caused one or more of your teeth to:
- Fall out
- Become loose
- Become damaged
In our office, we perform a range of smile restorations. These treatments can help build up and restore worn-down dental enamel, and they all work a little differently. These include:
- Dental bridges
- Dental crowns
- Dental veneers
As their name implies, dental bridges help restore missing teeth by bridging the gap where one or more teeth would have been. Crowns are used to help restore the form and function of an existing tooth, specifically one that is broken or worn. The crown will fully cover the portion of your tooth above the gumline. Dental veneers, on the other hand, are thin shells that cover the front sides of your teeth. These are most often used to address aesthetic concerns caused by a malocclusion.
All of these restorative treatments are custom-made to fit your mouth. They will be designed to match your natural teeth as closely as possible in color and shape.
Learn more about occlusal disease.
Occlusal disease can result in toothaches, jaw pain, and even frequent headaches. It can also lead to physical changes in the appearance of your smile. Thankfully, treatments exist that can help you take control of your symptoms and eliminate them for good. If you’re experiencing any of the issues listed here, it’s important to visit your dentist soon for an evaluation. To request an appointment or ask a question, feel free to contact us today.