Occlusion is a common term in dentistry, but most people outside of the industry have rarely, if ever, heard the word. If you have TMD or have begun experiencing symptoms of TMD, occlusion is something you’ll want to become familiar with.
What is Occlusion?
In dentistry, occlusion refers to how your top teeth and lower teeth fit together. This is also commonly referred to as bite. However, it’s indicative of more than just how your teeth fit together when your mouth is closed. Occlusion includes how the teeth fit together:
- When chewing or eating
- When sleeping
- When talking
- When at rest
Ideally teeth should not be overcrowded, not have gaps in between them and be straight. The upper front teeth should also slightly overlap the bottom teeth and the molars should fit together squarely. If your teeth aren’t perfectly aligned you’re actually in the majority. Experts note that only 40% of people at most have perfect alignment.
Malocclusion is the term used to describe a bite that is not properly aligned. This can range from slight misalignment that is almost nonexistent to severe misalignment, which is broken down into three classes: Class 1 for a slight overlap of the upper teeth, Class 2 for an overbite and Class 3 for an underbite.
Malocclusion can form for numerous reasons:
- Heredity – considered the most common cause
- Asymmetric growth of upper and lower jaw
- Injury to the jaw
- Prolonged pacifier use after 3 years old
- Prolonged bottle feeding
- Thumb sucking
- Impacted teeth
- Abnormally shaped teeth
Poor dental care is another cause for malocclusion. This includes lack of dental care as well as inaccurate fittings for braces, crowns and/or fillings.
The Connection Between Malocclusion and Jaw Disorders
When malocclusion exists it can create a number of problems, including TMJ pain. Even a slight misalignment has the potential to cause jaw pain, dizziness, headaches, earaches and more. If left untreated, TMD can develop.
Malocclusion and TMD are often directly related. TMD is a condition that is present when the joints, muscles and ligaments of the jaw are not aligned. Both malocclusion and TMD can be caused by bruxism, clenching and grinding the teeth. This causes the teeth to wear or shift and can cause occlusal collapse in people who previously had perfect occlusion. Without treatment these problems can worsen.
Dr. Auvenshine and Dr. Pettit at MedCenter TMJ are experienced in analyzing occlusion to determine if misalignment is the cause of TMD. With their advanced technology and experience, they have created custom TMD treatment plans for countless patients in the Houston area. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms noted above, give us a call today or use the online form to schedule an appointment to discuss your TMJ treatment options.