What is Occlusal Disease?

Occlusal disease is a destructive process that can result from a bite in which the teeth are not properly aligned. Forces are applied to the teeth every time they meet.  When the teeth are properly aligned, teeth, muscles, which work the jaw and the jaw joint, are designed to withstand these forces. But, when bite discrepancies are present this imbalance can cause problems with the teeth, muscles, jaw joint or a combination of all three. This disease process is the #1 most common dental disorder and at the same time the most undiagnosed dental disorder.

Symptoms

Symptoms of occlusal disease include the following:

  • Wear on the biting surface of teeth. Teeth are covered with enamel which is the hardest surface in the body. Once the enamel is worn through the dentin, which is the next tooth layer and softer than enamel, is exposed and wears away faster. This can often be seen when the front teeth wear and look smaller in appearance or back teeth wear and become flat.
  • Teeth can become loose and moveOcclusal Disease
  • Teeth can become sensitive oftentimes to thermal changes such as hot and cold.
  • Teeth can become sore to biting
  • Teeth are more susceptible to fracture
  • The muscles, which work the jaws, can become sore and painful. Headaches are a common complaint.
  • The jaws joints themselves can become symptomatic. Noise such as popping and clicking during eating or jaw movement is common and in some cases pain in the joint is observed.

What happens if untreated?

If occlusal disease is not treated the problems may slowly get worse over time. Ultimately the teeth wear out prematurely and may be lost. Muscle and jaw problems can continue to cause discomfort. The complexity and cost of treatment increases.

Treatment

If occlusal disease is diagnosed early, progression of the damage can be avoided and treatment can be much simpler. If treatment is delayed, damage becomes more severe and solutions more expensive. Treatment can include mild reshaping of the teeth to stabilize the bite, orthotic (splint) therapy, restorations of worn teeth, Rejuvenation therapy, orthodontic treatment to better align the teeth and/or any combination of all the above.

The key to preventing occlusal disease begins with a thorough examination and diagnosis. Unfortunately, this examination is oftentimes not a part of a usual and customary dental exam. With early intervention more complicated problems can be avoided and when more severe damage has already occurred, predictable long-term treatment is dependent on creating a stable and comfortable bite where the teeth, muscle and jaws work in harmony with each other.

by James Segulyev, DDS