Occlusion: What It Is and Why It Matters

If you’ve had headaches or pain in your jaw and went to see your dentist, they may have mentioned something about your occlusion. The term occlusion is used to describe your bite, assessing the relationship between the upper and lower teeth and how your jaws meet when chewing and at rest.

What most of us don’t realize its far-reaching impact on our oral health, our overall health, and the alignment of our entire body, and that occlusion is the backbone of dentistry. When your occlusion is misaligned, there’s a good chance that you’ve realized something else in your body, like your hips or shoulders, are out of alignment as well.

What is occlusion?

When it comes to dentistry, occlusion is your bite or the way in which your upper teeth line up with your lower teeth when you close your mouth.

Malocclusion vs Normal Occlusion

How can I tell if my bite is in, or out, of alignment?

  • Does your jaw ‘crack’ when you bite?
  • Do you have trouble chewing?
  • Do you have pain when you sleep?
  • Do you snore?
  • Are your teeth sensitive?
  • Do you have periodontal (gum) issues?

These are a few questions to ponder and where high-end technology and specialized dental knowledge comes in. To find the answers to these questions, having a Cone-Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) scan of your entire head and neck may determine if your bite is in alignment, and if not, where there may be an issue.

Where would I find a CBCT? Where would I check my occlusion?

A single CBCT scan can show potential dental issues, such as tooth decay, bone loss, abnormal growths, facial fractures, periodontal infections, irregularities of the temporomandibular joint,(TMJ), and problems with the tooth roots or dental pulp. Therefore, dental professionals, such as prosthodontists who place implants or perform more significant surgical treatment, would have a CBCT or send you to a facility that has one. Finding a prosthodontist who has one in-office will make your assessment easier and less-expensive.

Is it possible for my bite to change? Why haven’t I noticed this before?

Actually, it is possible for your bite to change. This can come from a traumatic event, such as a fall or accident, childhood sports, like horseback riding, soccer, or football, or from dental care, such as a filling or crown.

Most dental professionals can place or replace a filling, crown, or dental implants, and they look fantastic. However, the question is why did the tooth need treatment in the first place? If your broken tooth is a result of your bite being off, fixing the tooth without first assessing the primary issue may create new alternative issues that you may have not experienced.

What type of dentist should I look for to help me?

Find a prosthodontist whose treatment planning starts with asking questions, listens to your issues, and looks to discover ‘why’ you need treatment in the first place. Ask if they conduct an assessment of your occlusion and research their use of technology, such as the CBCT, 3D imaging, etc., as cutting-edge equipment will substantially improve the quality of care and your outcome, with the potential for your new crown, or other dental care, to last longer.

Do I really need to get my bite checked?

The short answer is yes. Getting a baseline and having your bite assessed is definitely a worthwhile investment. Occlusion is the foundation of oral health and has a tremendous impact on the alignment of the rest of your body. Next month’s blog will address more about the signs that indicate occlusion may be a serious issue for you.

Do you have questions that haven’t been addressed?

Schedule a virtual consult with Steven D. Spitz, DMD to ask any questions and discuss your personal concerns, and see if assessing your occlusion may be beneficial.

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Contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment to reclaim your smile today!

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