Your dental health is essential for a number of reasons, including creating a smile you can share with confidence. When teeth are misaligned, however, all of that and more can be in disarray and potentially cause problems.
You might not even know you have a bite misalignment but suffer from symptoms you’re unable to explain, including several dental issues. So, how can you tell if your bite is healthy or misaligned?
What is Considered a Healthy Bite?
Your bite is how the upper and lower jaw come together when you close your mouth. When healthy, your bite improves the functioning of your teeth, including how you chew, swallow, and breathe. It can also affect your breathing and your digestion.
A healthy or normal bite consists of the upper row of teeth fitting just slightly over the lower teeth. Your molars should also fit the grooves found in the opposite molars.
What are the Different Types of Bite Misalignment?
Bite misalignment can fall into several different categories, with each one ultimately resulting in some level of pain or discomfort. These categories include the following:
- Overbite: Instead of a slight overlap, the upper front teeth extend out further over the bottom teeth.
- Underbite: The lower teeth protrude out in front of the upper front teeth.
- Crossbite: The upper teeth settle in behind the lower teeth.
- Openbite: The front teeth, both upper and lower, fail to meet when you close your jaw. The back molars do not touch, and the mouth can never truly be in a resting position.
What Can Cause a Misaligned Bite?
Bite misalignment, often referred to as malocclusion, may be caused by different factors, depending upon the patient. These causes include:
- Inherited family trait, due to the size or shape of the face, jaws, and teeth
- Differences in the size of lower and upper jaw
- Impacted teeth or missing teeth
- Injury to the jaw
- Poor or failing dental work (fillings, crowns, or ill-fitting braces)
- Extended use of a bottle or pacifier or thumb-sucking during the patient’s youth
- Other issues in the mouth, jaw, or neck
Both children and adults can experience various stages of misalignment.
How to Tell If Your Bite is Misaligned
You may already know your bite is misaligned. If you’re not sure, however, you can do what is called the clench test.
Relax your jaws as much as possible, then bite down naturally.
Squeeze your upper and lower teeth together, and notice where they fall.
- Do the upper and lower teeth fit together, with the upper teeth slightly ahead of the lower?
- Are there teeth that do not have contact with other teeth?
- Do your front upper teeth feel as if they extend way beyond the lower teeth, even grazing the inside of your upper lip?
- Are your lower front teeth pushing up against the front of the upper front teeth?
- Is there any pain as you bite down or sensitivity?
If you answer maybe or yes to any of these questions, you potentially have a misalignment that is causing a bad bite.
An easier way to determine and confirm if your bite is misaligned is to schedule an appointment with your dentist and ask. Your misaligned bite may be so subtle you can’t even adequately tell with the clench test, or it may be so pronounced that you’ve just gotten used to it and think it is normal.
Your dentist can examine your bite and may make teeth impressions or take x-rays to confirm and determine the best treatment to pursue.
Signs Your Bite is Misaligned
Another way to tell if your bite might be misaligned is to consider whether or not you experience any of the following signs.
Difficulty when Brushing or Flossing Your Teeth
Misaligned teeth are often difficult to adequately brush or floss as they can overlap one another or be crowded inside your mouth. As a result, caring for your teeth becomes problematic, and you can experience cavities, other dental issues, and gum disease as a result.
Trouble Chewing or Biting
With a misaligned bite, teeth fail to come together as intended, and, as a result, biting into something or chewing can lead to discomfort or pain, particularly in the jaw. You may even hear a clicking noise. A reason for this is that you overcompensate for the misalignment by applying more pressure each time you move your teeth.
If you have a bite misalignment, you may experience difficulty breathing so breathe through your mouth.
When your jaws are uneven or stiff, you may find you have issues pronouncing certain words. Often thought of as a speech impairment, treatment, such as with an orthodontic appliance, can help alleviate the issue.
Uneven Wear and Sensitivity of Teeth
The condition of your teeth can be another indicator that your bite is off. Irregular or uneven tooth wear or tooth sensitivity can result where the enamel is wearing thin. An exam by your dentist can identify these areas and whether or not a misaligned bite might be causing them.
Due to a bite misalignment, a patient may place undue strain on their jaw muscles, pushing them to work harder to achieve results, such as chewing. Headaches, both mild and severe, are often a result of such overworked jaws.
Grinding of Teeth at Night
With an uneven bite, there is a tendency to clench or grind teeth at night as you sleep. The muscles in your jaw attempt to compensate for that misalignment, resulting in the grinding of teeth against each other in an attempt to fit more naturally. This clenching and grinding can lead to more dental problems as well as jaw pain and headache.
Experiencing Jaw Pain/TMJ Symptoms
Placing extra strain on jaw muscles as a result of bite misalignment can lead to severe jaw pain and may even cause Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). You may feel stiffness in the jaw or hear clicking sounds as you yawn, eat, or speak.
Ways to Correct Misalignment
A misaligned bite, in many cases, can be treated with the aid of a common retainer. If not, patients may need to wear clear aligners or metal braces to help correct the bite. For the most extreme misalignments, surgery may be an option.
Learn More About Bite Misalignment and Available Solutions at Stiles Dental Care
If you believe you may have a misaligned bite or experience dental issues resulting in discomfort or pain, contact Stiles Dental Care for a thorough examination. Dr. Stiles and his team will gladly provide the information you need and offer the best treatment options available. Call our office in Medford today or contact us through our website.