Have you ever bitten down into food and it felt wrong? Do you get soreness in your teeth or muscles when you chew? Do you have worn teeth, chipped teeth, or broken restorations? If you have these, then it’s likely that you have a bad bite, what dentists call malocclusion.
Malocclusion can lead to many dental health problems, and it doesn’t stop there. The effects of malocclusion can be felt throughout your body.
But the good news is that you don’t have to live with malocclusion. These days, a dentist can track exactly how your bite works to ensure you are biting effectively, and, if necessary, alter your bite to improve function.
Effects of a Bad Bite
If you have a bad bite, you will likely experience a number of symptoms that are uncomfortable. Your teeth may feel like they aren’t going together right. Every time you chew or try to rest your jaw, it feels like there’s something wrong, and your muscles are trying to put your jaw in a position that it can’t get to.
Over time, this can lead to sore muscles in the jaw. It can also lead to damaged or worn teeth, as some teeth are forced to bear the brunt of your chewing while others are untouched. Even if you get these teeth restored, the restorations are damaged.
Worst of all, a bad bite can progress to jaw clenching or bruxism (when your jaw clenches at night). Jaw clenching and bruxism can also contribute to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD).
Modern Technology Can Gauge Your Bite
If you’ve recently had a dental restoration placed, you may be familiar with the old technology for gauging your bite: a piece of paper that you bite down on. This articulating paper marks the places where your bite contacts, which allows dentists to make sure that your bite seems to be contacting in all the right places.
But articulating paper has its limitations. Mostly, it’s a record that’s static in time. It just shows what happens as you complete the bite, not how the bite happens. It also has limited ability to show the relative force of your bite in different places.
New technology, such as Tekscan’s T-Scan, overcomes these limitations. T-scan is a computerized bite register that tracks the force of a bite as it happens to give a dynamic portrait of the bite that can identify bite problems not seen in the static record. It also has high sensitivity to force magnitude, so it can gauge exactly where your bite produces excessive force and where it may be producing too little force. It can give warning signs about when a bite may be inefficient or destructive.
Uses of Bite Registration
This computerized bite registration can help with virtually any restorative procedure in dentistry. It can help dentists know when a dental restoration, such as a dental crown or dental implant, is not seated properly, or if it may be subjected to excessive force. It can be used during orthodontic treatment to ensure that teeth aren’t just straight–they’re distributing forces properly.
Bite registration can even help with the design and fitting of new neuromuscular dentures, which promise to give seniors who have lost all their natural teeth a new set of teeth that allow them to speak and eat effectively and in comfort. In this case, tracking the bite forces is essential to ensuring that the dentures really are producing an efficient and effective bite.
Bite registration can even be used to help craft sports mouthguards that don’t just protect the teeth, they improve athletic performance as well.
With this technology in a dentist’s office, it seems like we’re all prepared to take a big bite out of the future, and know that it’s not more than we can chew.
Dr. Matthew B. Candelaria (PhD, U of Kansas 2006) is a freelance writer, science fiction author, and technologist. In addition to dentistry and technology, his interests include Godzilla, the fiction of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, and craft beer.