Occlusal disease is the fancy name for “bite disease”. What? How does one’s bite become diseased, you ask? Well, there are three types of bad things that can happen to your teeth: decay (cavities), gum disease, and bite disease. We’ve discussed the first two, so here goes occlusal (bite) disease.
Occlusal disease is the condition where your bite — the way your teeth come down onto each other — is uneven, crooked, or misaligned. You may not be able to bite down all the way or chew thoroughly, and your jaw muscles must work harder for these simple tasks. Because of the unevenness, some teeth are worn down faster than others, and further wearing, breaking, or chipping of teeth may occur. The extra work on the jaw muscles also causes pain all around the jaw, mouth, head, and neck. “Aging” teeth may not be aging at all — the wear and tear is because of a bite problem long left untreated. It’s a mess!
Occlusal disease is often hard to spot. Unlike cavities or gum disease, it’s not always visually apparent. What may appear to be a randomly broken tooth could be a more severe underlying problem… and fixing just that one tooth is not going to help if the whole jaw is misaligned.
Dentists trained at The Pankey Institute develop the eyes for recognizing bite problems, making it less of a mystery to solve if one finds himself suffering the symptoms. Much research goes into fixing the problem; casts and models of your teeth are made so the dentist can see where the problem lies and how it can be adjusted (bite analysis). Occlusal disease also ties directly into bioesthetic dentistry and treating TMJ disorders. A simple, non-surgical tweaking of the muscles (most often used with a MAGO, or mouthguard-looking splint that helps “train” the muscles to realign in the correct positions) may very well be the solution to chewing food without harming your skull, and preserving functional, straight teeth well into your later years.
Dr. Sperbeck, West Los Angeles