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Dental occlusion is another name for the way your teeth meet when your jaws bite together. The letters TMJ are short for ‘temporo-mandibular joint’ which is the joint connecting your lower jaw and your skull. The movement in this joint lets you open and close your mouth and chew from side to side.

kennet-river-378If your teeth don’t fit together properly, you can have problems not only in your teeth themselves, but also the gums, the temporo-mandibular joint or the muscles that move your jaw.  These problems are called ‘occlusal’ problems.

Teeth that are out of line, heavily worn or constantly breaking, fillings that fracture or crowns that work lose may all be signs of occlusal problems. Your teeth may also be tender to bite on or may ache constantly.

Loose teeth or receding gums can be made worse by an incorrect bite.

Clicking, grinding or pain in your jaw joints, ringing or buzzing in your ears and difficulty in opening or closing your mouth could all be due to your teeth not meeting each other properly.

iStock_000006886435MediumIf your jaw is in the wrong position the muscles that move the jaw have to work a lot harder and can get tired.  This leads to muscle spasm.  The main symptoms are continual headaches or migraine, especially first thing in the  morning, pain behind your eyes; sinus pain and pains in your neck and shoulders.  Sometimes even back muscles are involved.

Depending on the problems you are having, it can be possible to spot the signs of an occlusal problem. Various muscles may be sore when tested, or the broken and worn areas of your teeth will show you are grinding your teeth – a common sign of an incorrect bite.

If your dentist suspects that your problems are due to an incorrect bite, he or she may help to diagnose the problem by supplying a temporary soft nightguard or hard plastic appliance that fits over your upper or lower teeth. This appliance needs to be measured and fitted very accurately so that when you bite on it, all your teeth meet at exactly the same time in a position where your muscles are relaxed. You may have to wear this all the time or, just at night. If the appliance relieves your symptoms then your bite may need to be corrected permanently.