Dental occlusion is the coming together of teeth ̶ a meeting of two surfaces made of the hardest stuff in your body and the movement of those surfaces against each other. You likely haven’t dedicated a lot of thinking to the act of moving teeth, because for the majority of us, it just happens. Fortunately, the brain is capable of coordinating 32 teeth and several dozen muscles, letting them move harmoniously even though you aren’t giving the movements any thought. When you’re out for dinner with a friend, this is great. If you are unconsciously grinding your teeth together, though, it’s not so great. Teeth are supposed to last for your entire life, but there are factors that can interfere with the longevity of your teeth.
There are three types of diseases that harm your teeth: decay (cavities), periodontal disease (gum disease), and occlusal disease (destruction of teeth). Many of us are aware – and have firsthand experience - with the treatments, symptoms, and causes of the first two categories. Occlusal disease, however, the aforementioned unconscious and pathological pushing together (or grinding) of the teeth, does not have the same level of awareness. This suggests an underlying issue, because the slow rate of tooth destruction means the signs of damage are usually perceived as nothing out of the ordinary.
In dental school, every dentist is trained to identify and treat decay and periodontal disease types. Dentists are encouraged to “look into the future”, and use their training to suggest pre-emptive solutions and treatments to those disease types, helping reduce negative effects before they escalate. Unfortunately, however, the number of dentists who are trained to “look into the future” for occlusal disease is far fewer in comparison.
Effects of occlusal disease
The following symptoms are linked to occlusal disease: wear, sensitivity, cracks, loose teeth, breaking teeth, sore muscles, painful jaw joints, headaches, acid reflux, breathing disorders, and sleep apnea. Injuries, like chipped teeth, frequently overshadow the actual issue of occlusal disease.
Dr. Forman has dedicated significant resources towards the investing, recognizing, treating, and reversing the negative effects of occlusal disease. If occlusal disease is detected early, your chances of keeping healthy, young teeth in your elderly years increases significantly.
In years past, a majority of seniors used dentures or partials. Now, the number of seniors who use dentures and partials has fallen. Considering that less people are experiencing teeth loss, occlusal disease is becoming more prominent in adult demographics. Many common treatments that adults undergo today could have easily been avoided if occlusal disease was detected and addressed at an earlier point in time.
Silent signs of occlusal disease
As mentioned, occlusal disease can lead to painful, immediate symptoms, but the most severe dangers are the hidden effects that you cannot easily detect. Regardless of whether or not your case of occlusal disease leads to pain, the progressive destruction of your teeth will lead to more serious injury if unaddressed. The body will not always alert you to progress damage, instead, it adapts and normalizes the process of tooth destruction, so it’s not easy to bring a case of neglected occlusal disease back to health.
Dr. Forman often includes an occlusal disease evolution in all of his periodic examinations that commence under his care. Dr. Forman is aware that “looking to the future” means considering the problems that won’t arise for years down the road, and how those problems can be addressed.
Maintaining maximum comfort, function, and esthetics for the lifespan of your teeth requires us to work together and address the diseases that interfere with your life-long, healthy smile. Forgetting to consider those diseases can have a profound negative effect on the big-picture of your dental health, and life. With our cooperation, we can form an unbreakable alliance that will leave occlusion for you, not against you. So get out there and enjoy a relaxing dinner with your friend.