The Importance of the Right Bite

How your teeth fit together or “occlude” is important in dentistry and for your oral health.  Occlusion is how your upper and lower teeth fit together when you bite and chew.  Signs of malocclusion, or an improper bite, include excessive tooth wear, fractured teeth, tooth loss, tooth sensitivity, headaches and jaw pain.  Many people are born with an improper bite (overbite or underbite) which over the years will wear down and fracture their teeth.  But you can also experience improper bite if you receive a filling or crown and it is left a little too “high.”  After having a filling or a crown placed, you might remember the dentist placing a piece of carbon paper in your mouth and asking you to bite down.  Then you might have heard the dentist ask you if your bite feels “high.”  The reason the doctor asks this question is because, if left untreated, a “high” bite can cause issues.

While in the dental chair, if you are numb, it is sometimes hard to identify your proper bite.  In these cases, after you return home and the numbness wears off, you may notice that when you bite down one side of your mouth will touch prior to the other side of your mouth.  This is an uneven bite, or malocclusion, which could have side-effects including pain, headaches or tooth sensitivity.

Dr. Stephen Spelman

A side-effect of a “high” bite is symptomatic apical periodontitis or acute apical periodontitis.  What these terms mean are if you have a filling or crown that is too high, that tooth gets more pressure when biting down causing the ligament around the tooth to become very tender.  Just as other parts of our body get tender when put under stress, so do our teeth.  The reason is because our body sends an extra amount of blood to help heal the area which causes redness, inflammation and pain.

If you have recently been to your dentist and received a filling or a crown and you are experiencing pain or tenderness around the tooth that was worked on,  you should call your dentist and schedule an appointment to have your bite adjusted.  The process of testing the bite and adjusting it usually only takes a few minutes and does not require any anesthetic.  Normally the reason for the bite not being right the first time is because the area was numb making it difficult for you to know if the bite felt normal.  After the dentist has adjusted the filling, the periodontal ligament will need a little time to heal from the stress that was placed upon it.  If the pain does not go away do not be shy to call your dentist again as sometimes more than just one adjustment may be needed.

If you have been living with an improper bite due to heredity, and have been experiencing tooth sensitivity, sore gums, headaches, neck and jaw pain, excessive tooth fracturing or tooth loss you may need to have your bite adjusted.  This can be done in a variety of ways depending on each individual situation.  I correct improper bites using Invisalign to reposition the teeth and/or Cerec crowns, veneers and composite bonding to restore the teeth.  The sooner your bite is corrected the longer your teeth will last!