Occlusal disease (commonly referred to as OD) refers to the destructive process that misaligned teeth undergo. Occlusal disease is a major contributor to tooth loss and can have a significant impact on your overall oral health. Quite a number of people don’t even realize that they’re suffering from occlusal disease. Provided that your teeth are functioning properly, it can be easy to miss the more subtle signs of this condition. However, if it remains untreated, occlusal disease can lead to severe long-term consequences.
What Are the Possible Causes of Occlusal Disease?
There are several causes of occlusal disease. The most common ones include:
- Unbalanced bite
- Crooked teeth
- Involuntary grinding
- Teeth clenching
In a typical balanced bite, the teeth, jaw joint, and muscles function in harmony. However, if your bite is unbalanced, unequal force is exerted onto your teeth, joints, and muscles, leading to repetitive stress. Continuous bite issues are likely to cause symptoms in your teeth, jaw joints, muscles, or a combination of these three dental structures.
What Are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Occlusal Disease?
Occlusal disease is often ignored and even dismissed by patients and dentists. Its early signs are usually classified as normal wear and tear, especially in older patients. Also, it’s the most undiagnosed and most challenging oral disease to treat.
Occlusal disease, just like other dental problems such as gum disease and cavities, can be effectively treated as long as you identify its symptoms early.
Common symptoms of occlusal disease are as follows:
- Signs of wear and tear on the biting surfaces of your teeth, such as shortened front teeth or flattened back teeth.
- Abnormal grooves, indentations, or fractures in your teeth
- Gum recession
- Pain in the head, neck, or jaw muscles, as well as frequent headaches
- Clicking or popping sounds in the jaw when eating or speaking
- Teeth that become loose or move
- Increased tooth sensitivity to thermal changes
How Do You Diagnose Occlusal Disease?
You can find out if you have occlusal disease by visiting your dentist. Your dental care provider will perform a comprehensive examination of your teeth, gums, and jaws to detect signs of this oral health condition. An evaluation of your jaw joint, bite alignment, and head and neck muscles can help identify symptoms associated with the occlusal disease.
Alternatively, a short dental history interview may reveal the presence of occlusal disease. Proper and accurate diagnosis of OD is necessary to prevent it from becoming a complex dental problem.
How Is Occlusal Disease Treated?
If you are diagnosed with occlusal disease, your dentist will review the available treatment options. They include:
- Orthodontics uses traditional braces or Invisalign to correct the crossbite, overbite, or underbite contributing to OD.
- Equilibration or bite balancing involves making slight modifications to the biting surfaces of your teeth to create an even bite.
- Prosthetics or restorations, such as crowns or veneers, can correct aesthetic damage caused by occlusal disease.
- Nightguards are available to help manage bruxism (involuntary teeth grinding).
Just like other dental problems, occlusal disease can harm your oral health if not properly diagnosed and treated. Fortunately, you can prevent long-term damage from OD by regularly scheduling routine dental appointments. This will allow your dentist to keep a lookout for common symptoms and, if occlusal disease is present, begin treatment immediately. Make sure to seek professional help as soon as you suspect that you have occlusal disease.