Occlusal Disease

The word Occlusion, in the dental profession, refers to everything with regard to how the upper and lower teeth touch. For the purpose of this discussion, then, a little head and neck anatomy needs to be understood.

The upper teeth are in the maxillary bone, which is a non-moving part of our skull. The lower teeth are in the mandibular bone, which moves. The mandible hinges with the skull by way of the left and right temporomandibular joints. You can easily feel these two joints by putting your fingers in front of your ears and opening and closing your mandible (lower jaw).

Think of your teeth, mouth, and bone of the lower half of your face as a system created to chew food and communicate through talking and showing facial expression with smiles, frowns, and other variations of facial expression. This is done by the movement of many muscles that cause our lower jaw (mandible) to open and close, and move left and right, as well as to move our lips, cheeks, and eyelids to communicate.

Problems arise because these muscles move without us having to think about them moving. Because we do not think about this muscle activity, most of us unconciously clench and grind our teeth together. This is what causes the damage. 

Signs and Symptoms of Occlusal Disease

  • Enamel wear
  • Tooth cracking or breakage
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Gum recession
  • Loss of bone support for the teeth
  • Muscle pain
  • TMJ symptoms

Our goal is to preserve the oral health of our patients, as well as to anticipate the long-term results when restorative treatment is provided. Treating occlusal disease can lead to a long life of optimal oral health and restorative treatment success.

Good Advice; Memorize the Following Statement

“Lips Together, Teeth Apart”

This is how we should train ourselves to live. When you find your upper and lower teeth together, whether they are being squeezed together (clenching) or moving against each other (grinding), both actvities are bad for all the component parts of the chewing “system” God has created for our bodies.

Of course, we cannot always control our jaw muscle activity. Many people clench and grind when they are asleep. Sleep is a complicated process but Dr. Leland believes it helps for us to try to “let go” of all of our stress when we begin to go to sleep. He suggests making a conscious effort to empty our brains of all thought processes when we go to sleep.

This may help with nocturnal bruxism, which just means clenchig and grinding while you’re asleep.

If, after this manner of self-care is implemented, a person feels he or she needs more help, a removable acrylic “splint” is made by Dr. Leland. This splint is worn during the night. In more severe cases of pain in the muscles and TMJs, the splint may need to be worn more than just at night.