What Is Bite Occlusion?


In dental parlance, the word occlusion refers to the way in which the chewing, or occlusal, surfaces of your teeth meet when you're nibbling, chewing or simply closing your mouth. In other words, it's all about the bite. When everything lines up correctly, you have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, problems in this regard can adversely affect:

  • Your gums
  • Your head and neck
  • Your jaw joint and muscles
  • Your teeth
  • Your general oral well-being

Studies by Dr. Brady Barr of the National Geographic have shown that the average human being exerts 100 pounds or more of pressure with every bite. It's a lot for any tooth to withstand, and if malocclusions exist, this much force can't help but cause trouble. Your teeth can wear down, break or grow increasingly sensitive. You may also experience headaches, stiff neck and disorders of the temporomandibular joint. When worse comes to worst, bite problems can even lead to tooth loss. 

When a Good Bite Goes Wrong

All dentists agree on one thing: that a person's upper and lower teeth should always meet properly, with no one tooth hitting higher than the others and nothing but the front teeth touching when the jaws move from side to side. The upper and lower teeth should fit together evenly with little interference, and the lower anterior incisors, or canine teeth, will neatly sit behind their opposites on the upper jaw when a person bites down.

Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys the ideal bite. A large number of people will suffer from some degree of malocclusion, and a system of classification ranks the degree to which the problem might exist in any particular individual. These are:

  • Class I: This is the most common and least problematic category of malocclusion in which the bite itself may be normal, but the upper teeth somewhat overlap the lowers.
  • Class II: Popularly known as an overbite, this class of malocclusion exists when the upper front teeth extend too far forward while the lower teeth point toward or even touch the roof of the mouth.
  • Class III: Some people call this an underbite, and it exists when the lower jaw juts forward, causing the lower teeth to meet or extend in front of their upper counterparts.

In some cases, a person whose occlusion appears normal to the untrained eye may experience pain that points to the need for a few adjustments. However, it can also happen that despite presenting an unnatural appearance, a person's degree of malocclusion may be normal for him or her if no pathology or unwanted symptoms also exist. 

Causes of Malocclusion

Many cases of malocclusion are hereditary and can result from:

  • A size mismatch between the lower and upper jaws.
  • Teeth that take up too much room and cause overcrowding.
  • The shape of the jaw itself.
  • Cleft lip, cleft palate or some other birth defect.

Other causes are environmental in nature and can result from:

  • Tongue thrusting
  • Thumb sucking
  • Prolonged use of baby bottles or pacifiers.
  • Poor or inadequate dental restorations.
  • Improperly aligned fractures.
  • Tumors of the mouth or jaw.

A dental approach toward treating malocclusions will vary in line with their probable cause. While some cases result from the way in which a person's teeth make contact, others may stem from a possible imbalance of the jaw muscles. In still other cases, ligaments may play the starring role. 

Malocclusions and Your Oral Health

If you suffer from an improper bite, the tremendous forces generated when opening and closing your mouth can injure the jaw joint and the muscles of the neck and head or damage the bone and ligaments that hold the teeth in place. If your dentist feels that malocclusion is responsible for your dental problems, he will want to rectify the situation. Treatment may consist of:

In more severe cases, a dentist may use surgical techniques to reposition the jaw.

If you have questions concerning malocclusions, Dr. White has the answers. The sooner you correct your bite, the better it will be for your dental and overall health. Don't let a possible problem in this area lead to further trouble down the road. Call Dr. White at 702-562-8833 for a consultation today.