Q. What is dental occlusion?
A. Dental occlusion is another name for the way your teeth meet when your jaws bite together.
Q. What is TMJ?
A. The letters TMJ are short for “ temporo-mandibular joint”,which is the joint connecting your lower jaw and your skull. The movement in this joint lets you open and close your mouth and chew from side to side.
Q. What kind of problems might I have?
A. If your teeth don’t fit together properly, you can have problems not only in your teeth themselves, but also the gums, the tempo-mandibular joint or the muscles that move the jaw. These problems are called ‘occlusal’ problems, for example:
Teeth that are out of line, heavily or constantly breaking, fillings that fracture or crowns that work loose may all be signs of occlusal problems. Your teeth may also be tender to bite on or may ache constantly.
Loose teeth or receding gums can be made worse by a faulty bite.
Clicking, grinding or pain in your jaw joints, ringing or buzzing in your ears and difficulty in opening or closing your mouth could all be due to your teeth not meeting each other properly.
If your jaw is in the wrong position, the muscles that move the jaw have to work a lot harder and can get tired. This leads to muscle spasm. The main symptoms are continual headaches or migraine, especially first thing in the morning, pain behind your eyes, sinus pain and pain in your neck and shoulders. Sometimes even back muscles are involved.
Q. How can I tell if I have a problem?
A. You may find that you clench or grind your teeth, although most people who do aren’t aware of it. Sometimes this can be caused by anxiety, but generally most people clench their teeth when they are concentrating on a task- housework, gardening, car mechanics, typing and so on.
You may wake up in the morning with a stiff jaw or tenderness when you bite together. This could be due to clenching or grinding your teeth in your sleep. Most people who grind their teeth do it while they are asleep and may not know they are doing it.
If you suffer from severe headaches, or neck and shoulder pain, you may not have linked this with possible jaw problems. Or you keep having pain or discomfort on the side of your face around your ears or jaw joint or difficulty in moving your jaw. These are all symptoms of TMJ problems.
If you are missing some teeth at the back of your mouth, this may lead to an unbalanced bite, which can cause uneven pressure on your teeth.
Together, all these symptoms are called “TMJ syndrome”.