By Dr. Matthew Weekes
June 19, 2013 Edition
Dental occlusion is defined as the contact be- tween teeth. It is the relationship between upper and lower teeth when you bite, chew, or when the jaws are at rest when the teeth touch. Ideally the forces exerted on the teeth in opposing jaws should be evenly distributed. If during motion some teeth experience much more pressure than others, this may cause mild to severe pain.
In a balanced occlusion the teeth and jaws are aligned in their correct positions. The teeth relate to each other in such a way that when they touch and slide against each other there are little or no anatomical interferences. The motion is smooth with minimal pressure or friction. When the jaws are in operation there are no painful symptoms.
Malocclusion or a” bad bite” is the misalignment of teeth and jaws. This can cause various forms of health and dental problems. Some malocclusions develop early in life soon after the permanent teeth erupt or later in life due to periodontal disease, the shifting, and rotation or over eruption of teeth into vacant spaces.
A “bad bite” can cause grinding of teeth at night (bruxism) leading to sore mus- cles, pain in the joints and sometimes severe headaches. The annoying grinding sounds can be heard from both children and adults.
The pain of malocclusions can be due to the rapid wearing away of enamel leading to the exposure of microscopic nerve endings from the pulp of teeth. Once the enamel is gone, the teeth can become very sensitive. There may be infection in the teeth and surrounding tissues that may either cause the pain or aggravate it when the teeth touch.
Badly fitting dentures or restorations may contribute to an uneven bite. If this is the case, either have them adjusted or remade. Whenever a problem with your bite develops seek dental treatment without delay. At least have a consultation to find out what is causing the problem. Don’t assume that you will need major expensive treatment. Sometimes the treatment may be a simple occlusal adjustment which is a painless balancing of the pressure on the teeth in both arches. The objective of Orth- odontic treatment is to correct malocclusions. Crowns, bridges, dentures, implants and appli- ances also help to provide a balanced occlu- sion.