Occlusal disease is a highly destructive condition that you likely have never heard about. We’re discussing it today because its damage often goes unnoticed, but it often can be treated via orthodontics.

This insidious disease has the potential to cause damage to every part of what is known as the masticatory apparatus – your joints, muscles, periodontium and teeth.

Occlusal Disease

Occlusal disease is the term used to describe the destructive process that happens when your teeth are out of alignment so significantly that it causes harm to your teeth and jaw muscles and joints. It might surprise you to learn that this disease process is the most common dental disorder, yet it also is the most undiagnosed dental disorder.

Dental problems associated with occlusal disease include:

  • Broken or fractured fillings or other dental restorations
  • Mobile teeth
  • Tooth loss
  • Excessively worn teeth
  • Cracked tooth syndrome- teeth that have fractures that are so small, they may not be visible on X-rays. Sometimes the fracture is below the gum line, which makes it even tougher to diagnose.
  • Class V fillings- this is a filling that addresses one surface cavity on the lip or tongue side of a tooth.

Your teeth perform a variety of functions: masticatory, phonetic, and aesthetic. Occlusal disease can interfere with each of these functions.

It often interferes with masticatory function by making it difficult for you to eat due to muscle pain, painful tooth fractures, and missing teeth. This leads to impaired chewing and increased tooth sensitivity.

Phonetic function becomes impaired when fractures, extreme tooth mobility and bone loss usher in tooth loss.

Occlusal disease interferes with aesthetics due to excessive, abnormal tooth wear, and tooth loss caused by fractured teeth, according to a Dental Aegis article.

Signs and Symptoms of Occlusal Disease

How can the leading dental disorder also be the most undiagnosed? Part of the problem lies in our unique ability to adapt to significant bite discrepancies. While you may have a bite issue, you likely are doing other things with your jaws, joints, muscles and chewing patterns to compensate for it.

Another reason is that bite problems exhibit themselves through a wide range of symptoms and adaptations, and they often give no indication to the patient experiencing them that they may be bite-related.

Occlusal problems have a way of sneaking up on you because they’re typically chronic, meaning they develop gradually and become worse over the course of months and even years. Many patients assume their pain and discomfort simply are part of life and don’t even consider treatment. No one should resign themselves to living like that!

Let’s all agree to learn more about the symptoms of occlusal disease so that if you begin exhibiting them, you can discuss the issue with your dentist or orthodontist and address the situation instead of suffering needlessly.

Symptoms include:

Teeth that are prematurely worn.

Teeth that are prematurely worn.

  • Wear on the biting surfaces of your teeth. Are your teeth developing a blunt appearance that looks like the edges have been sawed off? This is a sign that you’re wearing down your enamel. Once you wear down your enamel and reach the dentin, this softer layer wears away even faster.
  • Teeth that are loose enough to move around in their sockets.
  • Teeth that feel sensitive to hot and cold foods and drinks.
  • The teeth become more facture-prone.
  • The jaw muscles become sore and painful.
  • Frequent headaches.
  • Jaws joints pop and click while eating or other jaw movements.

Correcting Occlusal Disease

Treating occlusal disease is imperative because the problem will not correct itself. Instead, your problems are likely to worsen over time. The ultimate result can be premature tooth loss. The longer the disease goes untreated, the costlier treatment becomes

It’s also important to keep in mind that occlusal disease isn’t cured, it only can be managed.

You’ve seen me mention several times previously on this blog the importance of having children evaluated by an orthodontist by age 7. The threat of occlusal disease is just another reason why evaluation at this age is important. This condition can begin in childhood, and if the signs are identified early, the chance is greater that we can correct the underlying causes to prevent long-term damage.

Orthodontic treatment can address occlusal disease in some cases by correcting the improper bite so your teeth meet properly and even forces are applied across all of your teeth. Whether you have an overbite, underbite or crossbite, we have the appliances and treatment methods necessary to correct these issues. Correcting these types of malocclusions will help preserve your natural teeth, promote healthy gums, and make it easier to keep your teeth clean between professional dental cleaning appointments, as well as possibly keeping occlusal disease managed properly.

Sometimes poor oral habits contribute to occlusal disease, and those habits may not be corrected with orthodontic treatment alone. Let’s say you clench or grind your teeth at night while you sleep and while you don’t realize it, we can plainly see the evidence in the wear of your teeth. It’s unlikely you can “train” yourself not to exhibit this unconscious behavior. In cases such as this, we may recommend a splint or a night guard to wear while you sleep. This can prevent tooth wear and perhaps even place your jaw in a more relaxed position to lessen the tendency to grind.

Another possible treatment option is enamel reshaping, which can restore balance to a bite when a slight imbalance is present. In cases where the occlusal disease has caused excessive tooth wear, you may require tooth restoration through crowns or dental veneers to build up the teeth and prevent further wear to your enamel and dentin.

Diagnosing occlusal disease requires a comprehensive bite analysis to identify the degree and location of imbalance that is leading to the disease. If necessary, we may refer you back to your general dentist for collaborative treatment.

Just know that treatment is worth it. Teeth that are in proper alignment make it possible for them to function in harmony with the muscles and jaw joints as nature intended.

If you or your children exhibit the symptoms of occlusal disease, please don’t hesitate to call our office and schedule an evaluation. We will take digital X-rays and photographs to assist us in identifying the issues at play and help us formulate a treatment plan.