Straight talk about malocclusion and teeth grinding

What is malocclusion?

Malocclusion is a dental term that refers to an alignment problem with your teeth. Said another way, if you bite down and your upper and lower teeth don’t meet comfortably together, this is a malocclusion -- or to put into more visual terms, they are ‘out of alignment’.  Malocclusions vary in severity, and are generally hereditary so like everything else, blame your parents if you have a crooked bite. 

You may not be aware, but it is possible that malocclusion can have a potential negative impact on your teeth.  Believe it or not, malocclusion can be a precursor to bruxism for some people. Interestingly enough, many of the common symptoms of malocclusion include tooth pain, jaw pain, discomfort while chewing or biting, and tooth sensitivity.  While some of these symptoms may seem minor, if you experience them they can be painful nonetheless.   While severe cases are usually treated with orthodontics, minor symptoms may be treated with the use of a dental grind guard.

Why is it harmful?

If you have a healthy bite, the jaws are well matched in size, and the size of your teeth is proportionate to the size of your jaws. Your teeth are aligned and when they come together they allow the joint to sit supported in its natural position with the muscles in a relaxed and balanced state, with everything working together equally.

When your bite becomes misaligned or crooked, this can lead to problems with biting the inside of your cheek. It can also place undue strain on your temporomandibular joints and muscles that control the jaw. The temporomandibular joint controls the hinging action between the upper and lower jaw. When excessive pressure is applied, the joint can become sore, and can even be pulled out of position altogether and can cause you to have headaches, neck, cheek and jaw pain as well as jaw clicking or popping and trouble chewing, swallowing, or even talking.

In addition, a malocclusion can cause uneven wear patterns on your teeth which over time, make the teeth less stable and can lead to chipping, cracking or erosion of the tops or edges of your teeth A crooked bite also can do a number on your tooth enamel, which serves as a protective coating to your teeth. While tooth enamel is actually the hardest substance in your body, it can be broken easily and will never regenerate. Once the underlying dentin is exposed, which is a tissue containing hollow canals called tubules, your teeth will become hypersensitive to hot, cold, acidic and sticky foods making it uncomfortable to eat, drink or even brush them.

Another serious problem that can result from having an uneven bite is gum recession. Your gums hold your teeth in place.  They form a protective seal around your teeth and help your teeth attach to the upper and lower jawbone.  An uneven bite will forcefully push your teeth against your gums, which will eventually cause them to recede. Once your gums recede, the roots of your teeth become exposed and small pockets in the gums can form, collecting bacteria and leading to tooth decay, gum inflammation and periodontal disease. 

The link between malocclusion and teeth grinding.

As already mentioned, research shows that having malocclusion can also make you more susceptible to bruxism which is excessive teeth grinding and/or jaw clenching usually done subconsciously. Since most teeth grinding takes place during sleep, it’s entirely possible that you may not realize you are suffering from bruxism until the symptoms are too painful to ignore these include waking up with a dull headache, sore jaw muscles or joints, sleep disruption and tooth sensitivity. Longer term damage can include tooth fracture and loss, tinnitus, vertigo and migraine headaches.

What causes teeth grinding?

Medical experts don’t know definitively what causes bruxism but believe stress is a trigger and teeth grinding is the body’s way of decreasing stress levels.  Other factors that have also been identified as increasing the likelihood and severity of bruxism include: “

Stress Levels – Since bruxism is believed to be a stress related condition, those with a Type “A” Personality may be more apt to grind their teeth as a stress reliever.

Lifestyle Choices -- Prescription medications, tobacco, alcohol and caffeine intake can all increase the likelihood and intensity of bruxism.

Heredity -- Several studies have shown that there is a strong link between heredity and bruxism, it tends to “run in the family”.

What can be done?

The relationship between a malocclusion and bruxism is something like that of the chicken and the egg, does the extreme pressure from a misaligned bite cause you to grind your teeth or does grinding your teeth cause you to have a crooked bite? Either way, the long term consequences can have significant implications on your health so being proactive with treatment is the key to minimizing the damage if you notice you have a misaligned bite or are experiencing early symptoms of bruxism. 

Ora-GUARD® Dental Grind Guard is an effective and affordable solution. 

While there is currently no medication available to treat bruxism, dental experts agree that wearing a well fitted, dental grind guard is an effective treatment in providing relief from the symptoms of bruxism and can also help to improve occlusal alignment.  A dental grind guard provides a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, thus protecting the tooth enamel from rubbing together and reducing pressure on the jaw and TMJ muscles.  What makes Ora-GUARD different is its soft fit material to cushion jaws during clenching, and its patented bite plate wedge design. The soft material displaces during the fit process and in doing so helps bring the teeth back into occlusal alignment, and the bite plate wedge rotates the jaw down and forward, relieving pressing on the TMJ muscle, while preventing tooth damage. 

There are many dental grind guards on the market, however custom-fit products by dentists are expensive and may require multiple visits.  Many off-the-shelf grind guards may not fit properly, can be easily chewed through, or their material composition may be simply uncomfortable to wear.  Ora-GUARD® dental grind guard is unique with its patented Bite Plate Wedge design that slides the jaw down and forward, releasing tension on the TMJ muscle while preventing tooth damage.

FDA cleared, Ora-GUARD® fits securely in your mouth and is comfortable to wear, allowing for natural breathing while sleeping. An easy, individualized custom-like fit is achieved at home with a simple 60 second microwave or a boil and bite fitting process. Ora-GUARD® dental grind guard provides an immediate, over-the-counter solution that protects your teeth and minimizes the painful effects of teeth grinding.