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Occlusal Disease

Ben Franklin was quoted as saying “nothing is certain but death and taxes”.  In dentistry, the adage: “muscles always win and teeth always loose” carries similar credibility.

Occlusal Disease is a term used to describe damaged teeth that are a result of tooth clenching and grinding.

Occlusal damage related to TMJ

Occlusal damage related to TMJ

Signs of Occlusal Disease may include:

  1. Advanced wear through the outer protective enamel layer.
  2. Rough, sharp, or small “chipping” of the edges of the upper and lower front
  3. Small “notches” at the gum-line of selected teeth. This can often be
    associated with gum recession and tooth sensitivity.
  4. Teeth with small fracture lines indicative of high stress.
  5. Teeth or fillings with cracks or fractures without traumatic injury.

    Occlusal damage -broken tooth

    Occlusal damage -broken tooth

In our esthetic conscious society, dentists face almost a daily request for cosmetic bonding, porcelain veneers, ceramic crowns, and even implants to replace missing front teeth.  Patients want to reestablish the youthful look that society places so much emphasis upon.

Esthetic dentistry requires a careful analysis of one’s occlusion or “bite” for long term success of any esthetic prosthesis.  “Muscles always win and teeth always loose”.  Nothing man made can withstand the forces of the muscles in the face that close our jaw and allow us to chew our food.  The muscles of mastication (chewing), as they are called, commonly destroy the hardest substance in the human body; enamel.

How does one provide predictable long lasting esthetic dentistry for the patient who suffers from unnatural wear to his or her teeth?  In other words, how can one provide esthetic dentistry that is not destroyed by natural enamel or porcelain banging against each other?  The answer is to first correct the problems that destroyed the original enamel and will ultimately destroy even the strongest crown or veneer.

Chewing food is not accomplished by just the teeth.   Mastication is a process involving the teeth, the muscles of mastication, and equally important the position of the head of the jaw, or condyle in the base of the skull.   Simply put, if the position of the condyles and the teeth are not in the proper relationship when teeth touch, the muscles of mastication “turn on”, creating undo stress to anterior teeth.   If one can develop an occlusal relationship or bite where ONLY anterior teeth hit when the jaw slides forward or laterally and the condyles are in the proper relationship, proprioceptive innervation that “turns on” the muscles of mastication are not activated and thus one can achieve beautiful esthetic results with crowns, veneers, bonding or implants.    If posterior teeth are hitting when the muscles of mastication move the jaw forward or laterally, the muscles “turn on” and  destroy any man made prosthesis or the natural enamel one was born with.

We all have friends that spend thousands of dollars on esthetic dentistry that failed in a very short time.   The muscle-joint-teeth relationship was overlooked by the treating dentist.  The first step in any esthetic dentistry treatment plan should be an analysis of the triad of influencing factors that determine long term success.   Stone casts or study models can be made and mounted on an articulator; a hinge that mimics the relationship between the teeth and joint.  Often times through minor adjustments to posterior teeth or careful planning of the shape of restorations on posterior teeth, one can influence the “turning  off” or “turning on” of  the muscles of mastication.   Remember, if posterior teeth don’t touch when anterior teeth do, almost any type of crown, veneer or bonding placed on an anterior tooth will serve a long and pleasing life.

If you suffer from worn or chipped teeth, a solution to your occlusal disease must come before anterior restorations are placed to mimic what Mother Nature intended.   If not planned properly, your muscles will win and your bonding, veneers, crowns or implants will lose too.

See your dentist and discuss a plan that best meets your needs and the existing condition of your mouth.

Comprehensive dental care for maintaining function and good hygiene   can prevent tooth loss and other oral health problems.

Trumbull Dental Arts, Alison Kudish, DMD

160 Hawley Ln, Ste 101
Trumbull, CT 06611

Office: (203) 377-0638