Have you ever stopped to contemplate why only the lower jaw moves?
This is because the upper jaw is part of the skull and is stationary. In fact, the lower jaw moves in many directions-up and down, side to side, and front to back. Our facial muscles, our teeth, and our jaw joints were created to work in harmony and balance for proper chewing and swallowing. A bite that is out of sync puts a strain on the teeth, the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), and facial muscles. When this happens, some people begin to clench and grind their teeth which causes a cycle of damage to teeth, jaw joints, and gums. The dental term for clenching and grinding is bruxism and people who clench are called “bruxers.”
Why Bite Harmony Is So Important
When your bite is not in harmony, the poor fit can cause lower jaw movements which can totally destroy your natural teeth (as well as crowns and bridges) and can worsen the problem of teeth not fitting together properly. Don’t underestimate the power of your bite. Studies show that the strongest recorded bite strength was 975 pounds-per-square-inch (PSI) over a period of two seconds. The average chewing force may range from 55 to 286 PSI. This is an incredible amount of pressure isolated in one small area.
If an uneven bite is not properly addressed, teeth are at risk of breaking or wearing down to the gum line. To compensate for an uneven bite, clenching and grinding become continuous habits. Generally, people are not aware that they have this destructive misalignment until they visit a dentist. A routine dental exam will reveal telltale wear and tear on the teeth.
Things That May Disturb Your Bite Harmony
-Injury to the jaw
-Shifting teeth due to gum disease
-Crooked or misaligned teeth
-Arthritis in the jaw or jaw joint
-Ill-fitting dental work
Treatment For A Bite Out Of Harmony
There is no cut-and-dried treatment plan for a bite that’s out of harmony. Not every dentist is experienced in treating TM joint dysfunction problems. Ask how many cases your dentist has treated, not everyone needs to be treated for a bite disorder. There are many variables and factors that come into play. Your individual situation should be carefully examined and discussed with your dentist before any treatment is started. Some people can live a lifetime with a bite disharmony, feel no pain, and show no wear in their teeth, while others simply cannot tolerate any bite discrepancy. The verdict is still out on the perfect treatment plan. However we do know that if teeth are worn, broken, or in any way damaged and no longer function correctly, they need to be restored to proper function.
Prevention Measures and Lifestyle Changes
Clenching and grinding can wear down and destroy your teeth. Self-care treatment is a necessary and important step that will enhance the effectiveness of other types of treatment.
Here are some measures we recommend:
-Keep your teeth apart. Teeth should come together only when eating or swallowing. Most people don’t realize that teeth were not meant to be touching at all times. Give yourself a new mantra to chant: “lips together, teeth apart.”
-When you catch yourself clenching your teeth, open your mouth slightly and rest the tip of your tongue between your teeth.
-Stand tall. When you practice good posture, you will be practicing good jaw posture.
-Eat soft foods as a temporary measure to help rest your jaw.
-Manage stress. Stress will take a toll on your mouth. Daily stress management is a good idea for everyone, but it is especially helpful for people who clench and grind their teeth.
-Hot baths, massage, aerobic exercise, meditation, and yoga can all relieve stress and help restore harmony to your jaw joint and muscles.
-Don’t chew gum or eat crunchy or chewy foods that can overwork the TM joints.