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Treatments for Correcting a Bad Bite
Even though we have placed this last on the list of the big three, treatment for a bad bite relationship is perhaps the most important service we perform. A bad bite (also called malocclusion) occurs when the top teeth, bottom teeth, and jaw joints are not in harmony with each other. This lack of harmony coupled with grinding and clenching can slowly destroy the tops of your teeth. Malocclusion is responsible for the loss and disfigurement of more teeth than either decay or periodontal disease.
Malocclusion can cause premature wear and loss of teeth, TMJ problems, bone loss around teeth, and a host of other problems. If not diagnosed early enough, a bad bite can slowly make a mouth that is otherwise healthy, slowly self deteriorate. The cardinal signs of malocclusion are TMJ problems, notches along the gum line, worn or flat teeth, sore muscles due to grinding and clenching your teeth excessively, fractured teeth that have not been restored previously, and the shifting of the teeth.
Treating malocclusion begins with molds taken of your teeth to enable the dentist to closely study your bite.
Studying how the joints and teeth relate to each other gives us a clue to the nature of the problem. Sometimes it is necessary for the patient to wear a splint or night guard for a short period of time in order to adequately assess the extent of the problem. Splints worn in this fashion allow the joint and muscles to relax and return to a natural healthy state. After diagnosing the problem, several treatment choices are available depending on the severity of the problem.
In cases where a severe discrepancy exists, orthodontics (braces) are occasionally required to make major changes in way the teeth correlate to each other and the joints and muscle. For more minor discrepancies, it is often possible to reshape the teeth by selective polishing of the biting surfaces. If grinding and clenching are present, we often fabricate a bite guard to protect the teeth from further damage. Usually worn at night, bite guards are effective at minimizing grinding and clenching and limit the associated wear on the teeth. The key to preventing the detrimental effects of malocclusion is early diagnosis. Early treatment to correct bite problems can often prevent excessive wear, jaw joint pain, and the loss of excessive tooth structure. During our examination process, we look carefully for the signs of this disease process.