Occlusal Disease...


Where Did My Teeth Go?


            Each and every day, dentists see patients who have lost their teeth. Some have no teeth at all. Others, are missing a variety of teeth for a variety of reasons. Still others, the majority,  have simply worn and broken their natural teeth due to a very common problem…occlusal disease.


            What the heck is occlusal disease? And, why do I care to read on?


            Some people have a propensity to break, crack, and chip their own teeth. Others have chronic sensitivity to cold food and beverages. Some wear their own teeth down so much that their chin moves closer to their nose and they begin to look older than they really are. Others, get unsightly and sensitive notches at the gum-line of their teeth. The unluckiest get chronic headaches and chronic jaw pain.


            Occlusal disease is often the root cause of these problems.


            To understand these issues, one must understand the way our body is supposed to work. Our bite is a combination of three systems:  our teeth (and their arrangement), the way our teeth touch (occlusion) and the way our jaw (temporomandibular or TM) joints function. To perform in a healthy way, these three systems must cooperate. If any of these three systems are out of whack, occlusal disease can occur.


            To confuse things further, let us add another factor. Acid. Acid in foods and beverages damages teeth. The addition of acidic foods (soft drinks, juices, alcohol, coffee, fruits, condiments, sugar, breads, etc.) to our diet over the past several hundred years has led to more tooth wear. The modern diet is wearing our teeth down faster than they were designed for. What we eat is tough on our teeth.


            Our diets, our bites, our habits, our joints, and our muscles are wearing out our teeth at a younger age.


            So what can be done?


            The treatment for occlusal disease is very personalized. Because there are so many factors that can contribute to the problem, there are a variety of ways to fix said problem. Sometimes, your dentist can balance your bite and put you in a proper night guard to protect your teeth from clenching and grinding. Fillings and crowns (caps) may be necessary to restore and protect damaged teeth. Orthodontics (braces) may sometimes be recommended to move your teeth and jaws to a healthier, more stable position. There are even times when referrals may be made to sleep or ENT doctors to address medical issues that are causing tooth wear. There is no single simple answer. Proper care must be tailored to each set of teeth and their owner.


            If any of this applies to you, please ask your dentist what can be done. Your teeth work best when they are unnoticed. Not when you look in the mirror and wonder where they went.


            Until next week, keep smiling.


-Please send comments to Drs. Parrish at www.ParrishDental.com.