Table of Content
Is Your Bite Off? How Teeth Should Sit
by Dylan Hao |
When your bite feels “off,” there could be a reason. As you get older, your teeth shift. It’s such a gradual change that you don’t realize it’s happening until you can’t do the things you did, or your teeth aren’t touching when they’re resting.
Ideally, your teeth line up perfectly when you bite. But it’s more common to see misalignments in dentistry than it is to find a person with the flawless smile we all want.
In fact, studies show that nine in ten people have teeth that aren’t in their proper positions.
If you think your bite is off, what could be causing this shift, and how should your teeth sit?
We’ll explain what the ideal bite looks like, why your bite may be off, and how to help readjust your teeth.
The Correct Teeth Position and Why It’s Important
As kids, we’re taught how to brush and floss properly.
But you probably don’t remember being shown the proper oral resting posture for your teeth and jaw, do you?
No, you didn’t miss out on a crucial part of development, but there really is a right way for your teeth, tongue, and jaw to sit. The thing is, this happens naturally for most of us.
What is “Oral Resting Posture”?
The phrase “oral resting posture” is how we describe the way the jaw and tongue sit while you’re involved in regular, non-chewing activities.
You likely don’t have to think about where your tongue is (although you probably are right now). It simply goes where it’s supposed to go, sitting in its proper oral resting position.
You know you have the right positioning when your mouth is closed with your teeth touching or barely apart. Your lips are closed, you’re breathing through your nose, and your tongue is gently touching your palate (roof of your mouth).
You don’t feel any jaw pain, and your teeth are aligned. Your lower and upper jaw come together as they should, and you have the ideal occlusion — “the perfect bite.”
But when any of these factors are out of place and you have to force them, it affects your teeth and jaw.
The “Jaw Epidemic”
An easy way to catch an out-of-place resting posture is if you notice nicks, bites, bumps, or sores on your tongue. That accidental “oops” is okay once in a while, but if it happens frequently, your tongue, teeth, or jaw are not where they are meant to be.
But that doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.
In fact, this is becoming more and more normal as our lifestyles begin to impact our bodies.
This evolution in science is called the “jaw epidemic,” and it’s a serious concern for dentists and geneticists. Researchers have noticed a direct link between our lifestyles and how our teeth are formed as they grow.
If you want to prevent this from happening to your children’s children’s children, you can make changes in your daily habits. Chew your food and skip protein shakes for your nutrition, get more exercise, and opt for firm mattresses instead of the soft ones that allow your mouth to fall open in sleep.
You won’t notice the changes immediately, but your descendants will appreciate your healthy habits as they’re passed down.
What Causes Your Teeth to Shift?
Evolution and lifestyle play a role in how our jaws sit (and potentially our future generations), but this isn’t the only reason your teeth could be shifting.
This process happens naturally with factors like:
- Teeth grinding
If you’ve never had an overbite or underbite before, and you’re noticing your teeth don’t connect as they used to, your teeth are likely adjusting. This happens so gradually you don’t feel it, but the effects will eventually become noticeable.
Understanding Overbites and Underbites
Unless you’ve had maloccluded teeth for much of your life, you may argue that you don’t have an over or under-bite.
The reality is that these “bad bites” don’t have to be significant to cause issues with the rest of your mouth’s alignment.
Overbites occur when the upper teeth go past, or overlap, the bottom teeth. Underbites do the opposite; the lower teeth sit in front of the upper teeth.
These basic malocclusions are the reason people seek orthodontic treatment. However, if the slight protrusion isn’t distracting to you, you should still be aware of what’s causing your bite to be “off.”
The aging process affects our bodies at a cellular level.
In regards to your teeth, it means that your gum tissue, bone, and ligaments begin to weaken. Things you used to do easily, like chew steak and gum or bite a wrapper open, can be damaging.
The weakness in your gums and enamel cause your teeth to shift, and extra pressure speeds up the process. Women tend to experience this change around the time they go through menopause, but it happens naturally for most of us.
It’s also common to have shifting teeth as they develop. The space gets crowded if the jaw isn’t big enough to handle all the new growth.
By the time your third molars (wisdom teeth) come in, they push the rest of the teeth out of place to make enough room for them.
Misaligned teeth in children are often due to thumb sucking or extended time on the bottle or pacifier. The teeth will move back into their natural space when the habit stops.
But some children use the behavior as a comfort, and quitting is hard. Over time, this sucking habit pushes the upper front teeth outward and the lower teeth, or incisors, inward in a movement called an overjet.
In some children, the habit can prevent the incisors from erupting through the gums completely, leaving an open bite. It can also cause the top molars to “cross-bite” into the lower molars.
The purpose of orthodontics is to shift your bite.
Braces, retainers, and other oral appliances can — and should — adjust your teeth into the proper position. Talk to your orthodontist if you are receiving treatment and are concerned about your changing bite.
Injuries or Impacts
Injuries or impacts to the face and jaw may have invisible consequences. The official term for this is tooth luxation.
A luxation occurs when trauma, like a fall or hit, happens. The impact disrupts the system holding your tooth in place, weakening the ligaments, bones, and tissues, or affecting the nerves and blood supply.
The result is frequently a loose or angled tooth. It might not be painful, but the misshapen tooth can begin to shift the rest of the teeth around it.
Bruxism, casually referred to as teeth grinding, affects nearly 10% of the population. It has been on the rise since COVID. The spiking numbers make sense since grinding is usually related to stress.
Characterized by clenching and grinding, the condition causes the bruxer to bite down hard unconsciously, usually while sleeping. Once the person clenches their teeth together, they begin grinding them, shifting their jaw from side to side or front to back.
All of these actions cause the enamel to erode, which protects your sensitive inner layers of teeth. Decay and wear break down this enamel gradually, but the process is quickened with grinding and clenching. Eventually, the enamel can crack without treatment, and the tooth breaks.
To resolve the condition, the bruxer must figure out what’s causing it.
The damage from bruxism can be reduced by regularly wearing a custom-made night guard, like ours at JS Dental Lab.
What Happens When Your Teeth Aren’t Aligned
When your teeth aren’t aligned, the official term you’ll hear from your dentist is that you have a “malocclusion.” Whether it’s your bottom teeth sticking out or your upper teeth out of alignment, the results are the same:
Your bite is off.
Minor misalignments are easy to ignore. But when they become more severe, they can cause serious health problems.
Many people focus on the visual aspect of an over- or underbite, and these misalignments can indeed affect a person’s self-esteem. It’s one of the main reasons parents seek orthodontic treatment for their children when they realize their teeth aren’t developing as straight as they should.
We know that a beautiful smile is usually healthy and can enhance a person’s self-esteem. But nature has physical reasons behind your smile.
Oral Health Impacts Due To Malocclusions
You can chew, speak, and breathe normally when your bite is in alignment. As it shifts, you have trouble performing these actions.
You may struggle to adjust your teeth to chew tough meat, accidentally bite your tongue frequently, or notice an occasional lisp you never had before.
When you sleep with misaligned teeth, your tongue can roll back and block your airway, causing dangerous breathing issues — a condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA happens when the muscles supporting the soft tissue, like your tongue, relax as you sleep. This narrows or closes the airway and cuts off your breathing. Bruxism and OSA are frequently linked, and treating OSA can eliminate grinding symptoms.
Malocclusions also cause an increase in gum disease and tooth decay. It isn’t as easy to get into the nooks and crannies of your teeth when you brush and floss and the spacing isn’t aligned.
The mental and physical health consequences of a bad bite can turn into serious complications.
As with anything health-related, it’s much easier to fix the problem when you catch it early than it is to try to solve it after the effects have spread.
How to Reduce Alignment Issues
Orthodontic devices are the obvious method of correction for severely misaligned teeth.
But what if your teeth are just now showing signs of an off-centered bite, and you want to prevent it from getting worse?
You don’t have to turn your lifestyle upside down to solve the problem. A few changes in your habits might be all it takes to reduce those alignment issues.
Your teeth have a memory of their natural spot, so wearing your retainer after braces or Invisalign treatment is essential. They’ll start to shift back into their old positions without that gentle guidance to keep them in their new place.
The positioning of teeth is a lifelong process, so if yours are out of alignment, there’s hope!
They might not shift back into place without help, but you can prevent them from moving even more with these tips.
Stick to a Good Dental Hygiene Routine
Weak enamel and receding gums are major causes of shifting teeth. Take care of your teeth with a good dental hygiene routine, and visit the dentist regularly for cleanings and exams.
Replace Missing Teeth
Your teeth want to fill in gaps in the lower and upper jaw and will gradually grow toward those spaces. Consider replacing any missing teeth with implants or spacers to keep the surrounding ones where they’re supposed to be.
Reduce Damage From Bruxism With a Night Guard
If you think your alignment issue could be related to grinding and clenching, a quick way to reduce the damage is to invest in a night guard.
Using a high-quality, custom-fit night guard keeps your top teeth from touching your bottom teeth while you sleep. Because they don’t get the contact they need to grind, they can’t cause the level of damage to your enamel they would otherwise.
Gradually, your other symptoms of bruxism, like headaches, muscle pain, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) discomfort, will begin to disappear. You’ll adjust to your new bite without the bruxism causing it to worsen.
From there, you can decide if you want to pursue treatment options to put your teeth back into proper alignment. Clear aligners are popular with adults who want to fix a slight issue before it becomes a deep bite problem.
But if you’ve already had orthodontic treatment for straight teeth, be sure you wear your retainer. This reminds your teeth where their “correct” place in your mouth is and can help you avoid needing more oral appliance work in the future.
Your misaligned bite may stem from various reasons, but the treatment plan for crooked teeth doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.
When you catch the problem early, something as simple as one of our night guards can prevent further damage and keep your smile as healthy and beautiful as it has always been.