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What happens when your bite is off?

1. What is an „off bite“?

We don’t tend to pay much attention to thinks that work. People know they have teeth, but not many are aware of their bite and how complicated it actually is to make our rock-hard teeth meet in the exact point where they fit together so that we do not prematurely wear them down. Complex sensory-motor reflexes are at work each time we bite – and we are not at all aware of it!

Usually it hardly ever happens that be bite down wrong and catch a tooth or slide into our bite – except if we have a big problem with our bite! Our teeth can last us a life time, because our proprioception guards them and prevents excessive wear. We can move our mandible with enough precision to grab a hair between our incisors. And we can actually feel if we did grab it.

Dental science usually pays little attention to this amazing feat and so it is little wonder that it has been unable to come up with answers when this precise movement system starts to fail. For one who doesn’t have a problem with his bite, it is hard to imagine what another who does is going through!

Our bite may shift as teeth move, wear or get capped or ground on by our dentist and yet we usually are able to hit it with steady precision. This is so, because our periodontal ligaments provide our chewing muscles with very precise feedback as to how well they moved the mandible into the bite and muscles can thus adjust this movement, even if the target, the bite, starts to drift. If we loose a tooth, the neighbouring teeth probably will tip into the gap, the shape of our dental arch changes and so does our bite. But usually we continue to function without as much as noticing it.

However, the time may come when either our bite has shifted too much for our muscles to be able to accommodate the change, or when our adaptive capacity has decreased to a point where we no longer are able to accommodate a shift in our bite even though we may have been able to do so in the past. Now our bite is „off“!

There may be natural causes for this to happen, as when our tongue presses against teeth and moves them, or our bite might suddenly shift, because our dentist followed a protocol he learned in Dental School, but which does not recognize the role chewing muscles play in posturing the mandible. Either way, our muscles now hold our mandible even if we do not bite in such a way as to enable it to hit that shifted bite as reliably and with as straight a movement as possible. And that can become increasingly hard to do, finally exhausting our muscles even if we do not chew tough food. Most of the times symptoms then do not occur in such a way as to lead us straight to the cause. Rather, they seem confusing and may even lead to others concluding that they are caused by some mental disorder.

2. How do we find out if our bite is off?

By using the FreeBite! 

The shape of the two types of FreeBites is optimized to resolve such shifts in our bite, be it accompanied by compression of the TMJ or not. as soon as our muscles can quit holding our mandible at the ready to hit our shifted bite, we can discern the mandibular posture that results when muscles are not pulling it one way or another. Lightly chewing or tapping on a FreeBite is all that is required to make this happen. After a few minutes we may be able to recognize a trend which then can be confirmed after repeated use. We can observe how our mandibular posture changes by comparing it before and after chewing on our FreeBite as we notice how our symptoms change as our chewing muscles start to relax and joints decompress. There are two ways of doing that:

  • 1. We compare the relationship of the upper and lower midline between our central incisors when we bite down on our teeth and after we chew our FreeBote while it is still in place. We can also compare the overjet, how far our upper incisors stand in front of our lowers, in the same way.
  • 2. We observe how the first tooth contact changes when we stand of sit upright and gently close our mouth before and after chewing our FreeBite. If our bite was shifted to the left, we might observe that the midlines do not match when we bite down on our teeth. Even if they still do not match after chewing our FreeBite for a few minutes, our first tooth contact may now be between our right canines – a clear sign that it has moved back to the middle. In a similar manner, we may no longer feel contact on our back teeth on one or both sides – a sign that the corresponding TMJ has decompressed. For that to happen, it must have been compressed before!

3. What are the consequences?

If you know how to look for it,, you will find a more or less shifted bite in most people, because few of us have the luxury of having grown up under ideal conditions. You might find shifted bites less frequently in indigenous people, as long as they have not lost a number of teeth. But nature has provided for that. Changes in the bite do not matter too much as long as we are able to compensate for them without overloading muscles or joints. 

Therefore, having tested your bite with a FreeBite, you are likely to have identified a more or less pronounced shift in your bite away from where your chewing muscles would prefer to have it. What now? Do you need to have all your teeth capped or get orthodontic treatment?

No. If you can live well with your bite being slightly off and have no symptoms, there is hardly a reason to change anything. If you do have symptoms and now know they stem from your bite being off, allowing your chewing muscles some rest on your FreeBite from time to time may be enough to make them go away and stay away. 

However, it can also happen that you find it rather hard to return to your bite after having worn the FreeBite. Maybe your chewing muscles rebel and do not want to revert to the constant tension necessary to wok your bite. This is when you have to work closely with a dentist you trust. May be he can make you a bite splint, may be there is a crown or two which were never fitted correctly and cause your bite to be off and replacing those will solve the problem permanently. You and your dentist can always use your FreeBite to find out if there is a problem with your bite, what the problem may be in particular and if an attempt to correct it has actually solved it!

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