How your teeth come together and how well you chew is known as your ‘bite’ or occlusion. Problems with your bite can result from crowding, missing teeth, over or underdeveloped jaw and improperly erupted teeth. Unaddressed bite issues can lead to tooth wear and breakage, tooth loss and infection. When chewing isn’t optimal, it can also lead to digestive problems.
The other day I saw a young woman who had been clenching and grinding so much that the enamel, the outer, hard tissue of several teeth, had worn away. This exposed the dentin, or softer tissue, causing sensitivity. Grinding, or ‘bruxism,’ can also cause jaw pain or pain around the ears.
When a friend wondered what could cause pain in all his teeth, I asked if he might be clenching or grinding. ‘Yes,’ he said, he was lifting heavier weights, and when he did that, he clenched.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the only 2-sided joint in the body and takes the brunt of all biting and chewing. When the area becomes inflamed, it is known as temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD). This can also lead to head and neck pain or wearing of the cartilage or bone in the jaw joint.
Another factor that could cause a bite issue is recent dental work that’s set too high. High spots are a nuisance, but they can also produce pain and soreness in the tooth just worked on. This pain usually will not go away until it is adjusted, so be sure to let your dentist know if there is pain or discomfort that lasts more than a few days.
Dr. Carey O’Rielly, DDS, is a holistic dentist practicing at Integrative Dentistry in Encinitas. To learn more, visit myholisticdentist.com or call 760-632-1304. Read more of his columns here.