Is a bad bite only about your smile?

Dr. Jamie Reynolds
Special to Valley News

People with significant bite issues aren’t always that enthused about showing off their pearly whites. Maybe it’s crooked teeth that have thrown your bite out of whack. Maybe you suffered an injury, or perhaps the cause is dental work that wasn’t quite right.

Whatever the reason behind a bad bite, pain is usually the result. And that’s too bad because having a great smile can improve a person’s self esteem and confidence.

A bad bite leads to more than reluctance to smile; overall dental health is affected. Here are a few of the long-term consequences when teeth don’t line up quite right.

First, a bite that is off by a fraction of a millimeter can cause tooth pain. Improperly adjusted dental work can irritate a nerve. Tooth pain from these factors usually happens quickly and is usually the result of trauma or dental work. It’s important to have the eventual position of the tooth corrected to prevent long-term issues.

The jaw joint is made up of two bony parts: the temporal bone in the skull and the lower jaw, called the mandible. Put the temporal bone and the mandible together, and you get the temporomandibular joint or TMJ. Occasionally trauma to the joint can create a crackling or popping sound when you open or close your jaw. For most people, that’s no big deal. But, if you have a hard time opening your jaw, can’t open it at all or have significant pain during jaw movement, you should be evaluated for TMJ problems.

Muscular pain is the most common finding in people with jaw-joint problems and is largely responsible for the pain associated with many headaches.

Your teeth function as a chewing machine. And, just as with any other machine, the parts need to fit together properly to prevent premature wear. Over time, teeth can wear so that the inside part of the tooth becomes exposed. Once tooth wear progresses to a certain point, significant dental work and orthodontics are necessary to correct the problem. Preventing significant tooth wear before it happens is the best approach.

Not only will teeth that aren’t aligned correctly begin to wear prematurely, the gums and supporting bone will too. Notching of the teeth near the gum line and wearing away of the gum tissue are common in people over 30 whose bite is off. Gum recession and tooth notching can be painful as well as difficult and expensive to fix. Again, prevention by correcting your bite early is the best option.

Some people’s bad bites catch up with them when they are in their 20s. For others, those bad bites won’t create significant problems until they are in their 60s.

But eventually your bite will catch up with you. Dealing with bite issues proactively is much less painful, less labor intensive and less expensive than dealing with bite problems later.

Dr. Jamie Reynolds is recognized on an annual basis as one of the top orthodontists in metro Detroit. His book, “World Class Smiles Made in Detroit,” puts an emphasis on the many benefits of having a great smile. Reynolds, a national and international lecturer on high-tech digital orthodontics and practice management, attended the University of Michigan for both his undergrad education and dental studies and did his orthodontic residency at the University of Detroit-Mercy. For more information, visit www.AskDrReynolds.com.

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