“Occlusion”—The Unspoken Word That Needs to be Discussed More in Dentistry
While many dental patients will likely never hear the word, dental professionals often consider “occlusion” during the scope of their work. That’s because occlusion refers to the alignment of teeth and the manner in which the upper and lower teeth come together, factors that can significantly affect oral health.
Occlusion is important to oral health because the jaw and its muscles can generate massive force with the bite, sometimes up to several hundred pounds of force per square inch. If this force is not spread out and distributed properly it can cause serious and possibly irreversible damage to the teeth, gums, jaw muscles and bone structure. While one’s occlusion is a natural condition of the mouth, occlusion can also change due to dental work, which is another reason dental professionals take account of it.
Bad Occlusion Means “Bad Bite!”
“Occlusal disease,” malocclusion, and the more commonly referred “bad bite” are the words used to describe occlusion that’s being impacted by improper alignment and bite imbalances. Some cases of malocclusion—such as overbites, crossbites and open bites—are easy to spot, but many cases can be difficult to discern. For example, even something as simple as a new crown may affect occlusion and its distribution of force across the teeth.
Some dental professionals believe that occlusal disease may be at least as destructive, if not more so, than cavities and periodontal disease. Historically, the dental profession has gotten very good at diagnosing and treating cavities and periodontal disease, but lags in diagnosing and treating occlusal disease, which is often harder to detect. Given these facts, occlusal disease may be the most common dental disorder, in part, due to also being the least diagnosed.
Symptoms of Occlusal Disease
Absent obvious visual signs of bad bite, the following symptoms may be suggestive of occlusal disease, and should be brought to the attention of your dental caretaker(s):
- Wear on the biting surface of the teeth, often noticed when the front teeth start looking smaller than the back teeth.
- Loose teeth
- Teeth sensitivity, especially in reaction to thermal changes.
- Tooth soreness when biting.
- Teeth breakage or cracking.
- Sore jaw muscles.
- Facial pain or headaches.
- Popping or clicking sounds from the jaw joints during eating or other jaw movement, sometimes accompanied by pain.
- Recessive gums
- Notches in the teeth at or below the gum line.
Left untreated, the symptoms of occlusal disease generally get worse over time, and teeth ultimately wear out prematurely or are otherwise lost because of the ongoing and long-term damage. Overall, the earlier occlusal disease is diagnosed, the easier the treatment and the greater the likelihood of stopping disease progression.
The dental-care experts at Island Tower Dentistry account for occlusion within the scope of the full range of dental care services we provide. We are dedicated to helping you present the brightest smile and have years of experience helping people in the Marco Island, Florida area maintain their oral health. To learn more about what the Island Tower team can do for your oral health and smile, contact us today at 239-394-1004 to make an appointment!