Have you ever noticed that your bite feels different when you are laying down versus sitting up? Or, how about after a restless night of grinding and clenching? How about after getting a new crown or bridge?
If you answered “YES!” to any of the questions above, realize this is a common phenomenon. There are multiple studies and research papers that document that people can have different bites. For now, this blog will focus on the most common bites: 1) The “Normal” Bite and 2) The Fully Seated Condylar Position Bite.
THE “NORMAL” BITE
The “normal” bite is the bite where all your teeth match and it’s ready to bite into a delicious meal. If you have the majority of all of your natural teeth and they are in relatively good shape, you should be able to easily and naturally achieve this bite. This is the bite that you use the most often when biting into your burger or sandwich or when the dentist tells you to bite down during your dental visit.
THE FULLY SEATED CONDYLAR POSITION BITE
The fully seated condylar position (FSCP) is bite where you can slightly move your lower jaw back. Try it… do you notice this slight shift? Is it easy or difficult for you to do? If your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and muscles supporting your jaws are healthy and you have all of your teeth and they are in good shape, you can do this easily. When you do this, you will notice that only the back teeth or molars meet. This is where the condyle of your lower jaw is fully “seated” or in connection with the upper jaw in the fossa or concavity. When your lower jaw moves into this bite, you may also notice that your front teeth do not touch. This bite shift is usually about 1 mm or less in difference, subtle and during your day-to-day activities is unnoticeable and unproblematic. If you have trouble or experience pain or discomfort with moving your lower jaw into this bite, read on to find out why this happens and how we at Creative Smiles Dentistry can help.
A small percentage of the population do experience problems with this bite shift. These individuals typically have unhealthy temporomandibular joints, unhealthy facial muscles, or destructive teeth habits such as clenching and grinding. These individuals may also present with a history of popping and clicking of their temporomandibular joints, headaches, migraines, trouble opening and closing their mouth, difficulty chewing, and trouble finding a comfortable bite.
Here are some examples of what can cause issues with the bite:
- Trauma to the TMJ (i.e., car accident, playground accident)
- Overextension of the muscles holding the TMJ in place
- Posture (i.e., leaning forward constantly, resting your hand on your face, sleeping on your side)
- Degenerative bone and TMJ discs
- Uneven bite resulting from dental work (i.e., fillings, crowns, bridges, implants)
- Uneven bite from everyday chewing, eating, grinding and clenching
The great news is there are ways to remedy, treat and manage bite problems. The two most common and successful treatments we provide at Creative Smiles Dentistry are the following:
- Occlusal guard (custom-made)
- Bite equilibration
The most easy and comfortable treatment is having a CUSTOM-MADE OCCLUSAL GUARD or nightguard. We have a special technique and set of skills to ensure the guard fits your teeth perfectly to protect your teeth while also helping your muscles and TMJ to heal. An occlusal guard that has been properly adjusted will allow a smooth transition between the “normal” bite and the FSCP bite. This will assist in relieving the tension in your TMJ and facial muscles and reducing the intensity of any grinding and clenching habits.
I can speak from experience because I am one of these patients. My custom-made and custom-adjusted guard has made my sleep so much richer and deeper and the muscle tension I felt in my left cheek has improved by 80%. As many of you already know, having a restful night sleep results in more energy during the day. More energy in the day gives me more energy to keep up with the demands of being a dentist, wife and mom. I am grateful for this life changing treatment.
I also had patients where we adjusted guards made from another dental office and they either felt immediately better or noticed an improvement after a few days of wearing their newly adjusted guard.
Imagine your teeth as the tires on your car. Over the years, you wear down the teeth just like you wear down your tires. Whoever has driven or owned a car has likely experienced a time where you needed to re-align tires. This same concept applies to your teeth. Whenever you get a brand-new filling or crown, the dentist typically adjusts the filling or crown to make the bite feel normal again. Those adjustments to the filling or crown are also known as EQUILIBRATION. Just like re-aligning your car tires, we are equilibrating your teeth.
For patients with extensive bite issues and problems, we equilibrate ALL of your teeth, including the natural ones and the ones that have been previously restored with crowns, bridges and fillings. The goal of equilibration is that ALL of your teeth wear down EVENLY and MINIMALLY and allow your TMJ and muscles to heal and be healthy again.
By nature, human beings are dynamic and that includes our bite, TMJ, muscles and teeth. If you notice a change in your bite or your bite giving you troubles, reach out to us today. Share this blog post with your friends and family and let’s help one another live a more fulfilling life.
Author: Dr. Jeannie Ju