When our teeth fit together correctly, we may not even think about our bite. But when our teeth are misaligned, it can cause all kinds of oral health problems. We might believe bite problems are simply cosmetic. While it’s true that properly aligned teeth help us look better and boost self-confidence, a bad bite can affect our oral and overall health in ways that aren’t always obvious. Good alignment is essential for healthy teeth and bone and jaw development. If you think you have a bite problem, the first step is a talk with your family dentist.
What Does My Dentist Mean When She Talks About “Bite”?
The term “bite” describes the way your upper and lower teeth fit together. A healthy bite happens when your upper front teeth fall slightly in front of your lower front teeth, and your molars fit comfortably into the opposite molars. However, many genetic and environmental issues can create a misalignment. A bad bite is also called malocclusion, and it’s widespread in patients of all ages.
What Are Common Bite Problems?
The American Association of Orthodontists identified seven primary categories of bite problems:
- Crossbite: when the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth because of misaligned teeth or bone.
- Underbite: when the lower jaw sits in front of the upper jaw, causing the upper front teeth to sit behind the bottom front teeth.
- Open bite: when the back teeth are together but the front teeth don’t overlap (can be caused by thumb sucking).
- Deep bite: when the top front teeth cover the bottom teeth too deeply, often touching the gums.
- Crowding: when teeth don’t have enough space.
- Spacing: when there’s too much space between the teeth because of missing or small teeth.
- Protrusion: when the top front teeth stick out (colloquially known as buck teeth). Protruded teeth are prone to breaking and can make it hard to close your mouth.
What Are Signs That My Bite Is Off?
Many patients notice problems with their bite because of tooth pain, a chipped tooth or simply a feeling that something is off. Here are some potential warning signs of bite problems:
- Overlapping teeth.
- Too much space between the teeth
- Protruding upper or lower front teeth
- Pain or discomfort when biting or chewing.
- One tooth touches down before the others or falls in a way that feels strange when you close your mouth.
What Can Happen If I Don’t Correct Bite Problems?
Crooked teeth certainly cause cosmetic issues and can impact our self-confidence. But the impact of bite problems goes way beyond appearance. Malocclusion can affect our oral and overall health.
- Tooth decay and gum disease: malocclusion can make your teeth harder to brush and floss, especially when they’re crowded or protruding.
- Bite-related chewing problems can impact nutrition. Issues related to chewing can cause significant nutrition challenges, especially in seniors and children.
- When teeth rub or hit against each other, it can cause wear and tear, enamel erosion and chipped teeth.
- Malocclusion can cause speech issues at all ages.
- Maladaptations related to bite can cause pain in your jaw joint and cause your jaw to develop abnormally.
What If My Bite Feels Off After A Filling or Crown?
Sometimes your bite feels off after a new filling or crown as your mouth adjusts to the new materials. Your new dental work may take a few days to feel right. But if it continues to feel off, make an appointment with your dentist. She can adjust the material and get everything operating normally again.
What Should I Do If I’m Worried About My Bite?
Regular dental checkups aren’t just for finding cavities. Your family dentist regularly screens for bite problems from childhood and can catch issues early. If you have concerns about your bite, the first step is to see your family dentist. She’ll examine your teeth and take x-rays to identify problem areas. Many dentists can now treat malocclusion in adults and teens with terrific results. The Invisalign aligner system allows your trusted dentist to provide you with a custom approach to “invisibly” straighten your teeth and correct your bite. Your family dentist can refer you to an orthodontist for treatment for pediatric or more severe bite problems. At Greenhill Family Dentistry, we’re constantly working to protect every aspect of our patients’ oral health. Helping patients identify and address bite problems is a significant part of what we do, for both cosmetic and health reasons. As always, we want our patients to look and feel their best while keeping their teeth strong and healthy.