When it comes to the health of your teeth, most people think of basic care like brushing and flossing. And while those are important, there are other concerns that affect dental health. How your upper and lower jaw fit together, or your bite, is a vital part of that health. When the jaws don’t fit together properly, and the teeth become misaligned, it’s referred to as a malocclusion, and that can affect your dental health in many ways.
If you live in the Vernon, New York area, and you're dealing with problems with your bite, Wayne Hofflich, DDS and the experienced staff at SmileBoutique can help. Here’s what they want you to know.
Occlusion is the basic term for bite alignment, and proper alignment is called an ideal bite or a normal bite. If everything is aligned, the teeth protect your tongue and keep you from biting your lips and cheeks. A normal bite generally has your upper front teeth fit slightly over your lower front teeth, and the molars in the upper and lower jaw fit opposite each other.
Many of the things that can misalign your teeth have nothing to do with your daily dental routine. These include the size of your teeth and jaws, heredity, birth defects, injury, tumors, and poorly fitting dental appliances. Childhood habits, like thumb sucking or extended pacifier use can affect the chances of a malocclusion, as well.
The type of malocclusion you have is determined by the positioning of the upper and lower teeth. It can be as mild as an increased overlap of the upper teeth over the lower to more severe issues. Severe misalignment can lead to overbite problems (where the upper teeth severely overlap the lower). These issues include a deep bite (when the upper teeth cover the lower ones too much) and protrusion (buck teeth). With severe issues in the lower jaw, you can develop problems like a crossbite (some teeth form an overbite and some an underbite) and an open bite (when the upper and lower teeth don’t overlap at all).
Bite problems can affect dental and overall health in many ways:
Malocclusions can affect basic things regarding dental care, such as making it harder to brush teeth properly to protect against tooth decay and gingivitis. They can also cause teeth grinding and create difficulties with biting and chewing.
A bad bite can also lead to a strain in the jaw muscles, causing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems that affect a lot more than your teeth. In addition, it can lead to problems with breathing and speech.
Depending on the severity of the problems with your bite, malocclusions can also affect your facial appearance. Teeth protruding out, sinking in, or severe misalignments of the jaw can change how your face looks.
Minor alignment issues may not need treatment, but in more severe cases, devices like braces can help to move teeth into a normal bite pattern. We use tooth repair (reshaping, capping, or bonding) or tooth removal to help deal with moderate issues like overcrowding of teeth. And in severe cases, we might suggest surgery to align or change the length of your jaw. All these treatments help both your dental and overall health.
If you’re dealing with problems with your bite, call SmileBoutique at 914-664-7400, or make an appointment online today.