Occlusal disease is a destructive process that can result from a bite relationship in which the teeth are not properly aligned. Forces are applied to the teeth every time they come together. When the teeth are properly aligned, teeth, muscles, and the jaw work properly to withstand these forces, but on the other hand, 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 most common dental disorder seen among patients and also the most undiagnosed.
Symptoms of occlusal disease include the following:
Tooth Wear – If teeth interfere with muscle patterns, the jaw muscles will attempt to grind down the part of the tooth that interferes to get the jaw comfortable. Teeth are covered with enamel, which is the hardest surface in the body. Once the enamel is worn through, the dentin will be exposed. The dentin is the next tooth layer and is softer than enamel, therefore, once exposed it and wears away seven times faster than enamel. This can often be seen when the front teeth wear and look shorter in appearance or back teeth become flat.
Loose teeth – Teeth may loosen to allow the jaw muscles to move in a more comfortable or natural pattern
Additional symptoms include:
Sensitive teeth – Teeth can become sensitive to thermal changes such as hot and cold.
Biting pain – Teeth can become sore or have pain when the patient to biting.
Fractured teeth – Teeth are more susceptible to fracture in patients suffering from occlusal disease. Many times patients may notice a pattern of teeth and existing dental work breaking. Cusps tend to break on back teeth and teeth can split.
Muscle pain – The excessive muscle activity caused by occlusal disease often results in pain/spasms in the muscle itself. All of the jaw muscles can become tender and tired, including the temporal muscles that are the source of many “tension headaches.”