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Dr. Mac Lee: Improper bite can wear down teeth over time

Jan. 4, 2010 at midnight
Updated Jan. 4, 2010 at 7:05 p.m.

Robert's natural smile.

There are three ways a person can lose teeth; decay, gum disease and the way teeth naturally come together, also referred to as one's bite.

It is easy to understand the decay and gum disease process, and easy to prevent with preventive care.

Although without good oral health, decay causes holes in teeth, while people with gum disease have bleeding gums and disappearing bone.

Bite problems are more difficult to see and understand, but there is no doubt that if the teeth don't come together correctly and the person is a grinder or clincher, something has to give.

Under the right circumstances, extreme wear can occur over a short period of time.

Take Robert, for example. He is a young man whose teeth did not fit properly in his mouth, plus he is prone to heavy grinding. Unknowingly and over time, Robert ground down more than 50 percent of his natural teeth as the below pictures show.

The first picture is his natural smile. In the second picture, the cheeks and lips are retracted in order to show the real damage.

The front teeth should be around 11mm in length and Robert's were 5mm, meaning he had ground off more than half of his natural teeth.

This much wear can cause pain while eating and extreme sensitivity to hot and cold. Obviously, if something doesn't change, his teeth will soon be worn down to the gum line.

In order to fix this situation, every tooth will need to be crowned and restored to the correct bite.

Finding the correct bite is absolutely essential for any long-lasting results. If Robert's bite is not corrected, the same wear will take place, and he will literally break his new man-made teeth the same as he did with the ones Mother Nature gave him.

We found Robert's correct bite by using a process called Neuromuscular Dentistry. We mimic his new good bite using a plastic material to make sure we have it right.

If the bite is wrong, you simply take the plastic off and everything is back to the way it was and you start over. This step is essential and totally reversible.

The plastic bite proved to be the correct one. Notice how much taller and natural looking the teeth are in the corrected bite.

Once we knew the bite was right, it was time to move to the final stage; crowning each and every tooth in Robert's mouth. We used the latest all-porcelain crowns for the final restorations. There is no metal in this latest and greatest porcelain restorative material.

The results are obvious and dramatic. Robert now has a smile he can show off, and, more importantly, he can chew food normally and without pain or sensitivity.

Modern dentistry can be a life-changing event.

Mac Lee is a dentist in practice in Edna. He is the co-founder of Dentists Who Care, a national movement to educate the public on modern dentistry. If you have dental questions you can call him at 361-782-7191or visit him at www.drmaclee.com.

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