How does your bite feel? If you have been to our office, you will be asked this question. We ask every new patient to complete a detailed questionnaire about how their bite feels to them. We include an occlusal evaluation as part of every new patient exam. This typically involves doing a digital scan of your teeth and evaluating where your teeth hit together. The teeth in your mouth should be working harmoniously with each other, creating an even balance of forces. If there is an unbalance, it will put your teeth at risk for cracks, chips or catastrophic damage. It can also cause muscle and TMJ (jaw joint) pain and in some cases, have more severe consequences to your overall health.
When you are only biting on a few teeth or on one side of your mouth, it is the equivalent of walking on one foot, or only walking on the tips of your toes. It can be done, but how long will your body be able to sustain it without irreversible damage? There are also situations where you are biting on all your teeth, but something about that bite is uncomfortable, kind of like wearing shoes that do not fit right and cause discomfort when you wear them for long periods of time.
Sometimes, wearing something to prevent your teeth from touching, like a retainer or a mouthguard can help with symptoms. It acts as a bandaid to prevent you from grinding your teeth. However once you remove the appliance in the morning, you may notice the discomfort start to build up and be bothersome throughout the day. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, so don’t ignore these feelings as they develop.
Why does this happen? The etiology of a “bad bite” is multifactorial. As we grow and develop, the way our teeth come together is dictated by the muscles of our jaw, cheek and tongue. Your airway also plays a significant role. Mouth breathing as a child can cause improper tongue placement at rest and when swallowing. Your tongue is designed to act like a scaffold for your teeth. If it is in its proper position (suctioned to the roof of your mouth) it allows for proper growth and development. If not, problems may arise.
If your teeth do not grow in straight, you may have this corrected as a child or as an adult. Once they are moved, it is important for the bite to be balanced and equilibrated. If this is not done at the end of treatment, an unbalanced bite can lead to future problems. In addition, retention must be used for life after any type of orthodontic treatment, including Invisalign. Teeth can relapse, causing them to come together in a destructive way, which can cause bite problems as well.
Tooth loss is the other reason bite problems can occur. Once a tooth is taken out, teeth will shift to try to fill in the space. If you lose a lot of teeth on once side, you may start favoring the other side of your mouth when chewing. Eventually this will cause too much load on the side that is getting twice the amount of chewing forces.
In our practice , we have a simple way to determine if changing your bite will help with your symptoms. We use the digital scan of your teeth to create a clear 3D printed appliance called a deprogrammer. It has a small ramp near the front top teeth which your lower teeth rest on, and prevents your back teeth from touching. When your back teeth do not touch, those muscles are not being used and after a few days or weeks, the muscle memory gets completely erased. At this point we are able to evaluate your true jaw position and create a definitive treatment plan to get you there.
The deprogrammer is not a permanent solution. If nothing is done after you stop wearing it, your muscle activity will kick in and eventually your bite will go back to the way it was. The pain you were having before will likely come back too. The goal is to figure out how to get your teeth to touch comfortably in this new jaw position. Some follow up treatment to achieve this new bite may be adjusting your existing teeth, adding to them, or moving them with clear aligners such as Invisalign. This all begins with a correct occlusal diagnosis so we can make sure your treatment will be successful. If you are interested in finding out more, head to our website to schedule a new patient exam at Domino Dental. We can’t wait to meet you!