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Worn Lower Teeth


Do your lower teeth look like they have been filed down?

This is a common problem that we see in the office every day - for people of any age. Unfortunately, this situation is usually a sign that there are complex forces at work.

Firstly, some important background on the subject:

The "enamel" on the edges of your teeth starts out about 1 1/2 millimeters thick when you are ten years old. Once you have worn through that thickness of very hard material, then you will expose the next layer of tooth structure called the "dentin", which is much softer.  In fact, dentin is so much softer that it will wear down 7  times faster than the original enamel. You can do the math yourself on that, and consider how long it will take for your teeth to look incredibly short or very irregular looking. This next picture is typical of 60 years of tooth wear that was never addressed!..

Really worn lower teeth

THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST COMPLEX PROBLEMS IN DENTISTRY.. You want to have your dentist thoroughly address this as soon as you recognize a wear problem with the edges of your teeth. That said, it is important to understand that your dentist can not just build your front teeth back up without leaving you unable to close your back teeth together. If you let this go too long, it will take some work correct the situation.

This enamel loss is a molecule by molecule process. Your "bite" is likely to have changed - nanometer by nanometer - and adjusted to accommodate the shorter teeth.  If a dentist just suddenly adds plastic filling material or crowns to recreate your lost tooth height, then when you closed your teeth together, the front teeth would be the only ones hitting.

Usually, in order to do anything more than a quick "patch", the dentist must first discover and address the source of your problem.

Come to see us for a short visit to discuss your options and improve the future of your smile!

Here's some common reasons that your teeth may be wearing down:

1. You may have a "Deep Bite",
meaning that when you bite down (with your back teeth clenched), your lower teeth almost completely disappear. Having a deep bite, forces your front teeth to rub against each other thousands of times each day, whenever you open and close. Obviously, this will wear away the enamel, molecule by molecule. 

     * It takes years for this kind of wear to be evident, so we will normally start remarking about it when people are around age 35 to 50.

         ex dp bt 1          ex dp bt 2     
When you bite down, some lower teeth should show.     "Deep Bite" - No lower teeth show.

2. You may have an unconscious jaw-position habit, meaning that  when you are in deep thought, you may be setting your teeth and jaws so that the edges of the front teeth rub together asymmetrically. In our office, we like to call that jaw position your "thinking spot".  Whenever a person has irregular edges of the front teeth, or an irregular angle to the edges of the teeth,  we make a special effort to discover this habit.

So many people have this kind of wear, that I am thinking of writing a paper for the dental journals on the subject.  I have never heard this discussed in professional circles, but I find a patient with this problem almost every single day. Recently, I have been photographing obvious cases.

     * It takes years for this kind of wear to be evident as well, so we will see this kind of wear in people over 35 as well.

 thkg spot 1         thkg spot 1

3. You may be grinding or clenching your teeth, meaning that you have an unconscious habit while you sleep. This can be addressed with the use of a unique "night splint" that we make for our patients.  We use a very unique splint technique designed by the Guru of TMJ therapy - Dr. Peter Dawson - and our patients rave about the difference it makes in their quality of life. (see our webpage for "TMJ - Clenching")

    * Wear from this kind of problem can be obvious by age 20 and sometimes even earlier! If left untreated, the wear from this problem can cause the loss of HALF the size of the tooth by age 40!

deep bite 1          menard 2   

4. You may have upper porcelain crowns that are harder and rougher than the enamel on your lower teeth. Even with normal use, if you have crowns on the upper teeth, then your lower teeth opposing the crowns may wear down faster than the rest of your teeth.  This is the case for the picture below...

CRN WEAR 1          CRN WEAR 2  
This is upper crowns and "deep bite".              When she opens, these are her worn lower teeth.

5. You may have a tooth position problem.  Your teeth may have started out crowded or they may be shifting over the years. As they move, they slowly begin to hit each other in a traumatic way. The picture below shows teeth that are becoming more and more crowded as the years pass, so naturally, they are wearing down in an unusual pattern.  Can you see the little "ditches" on the top of every tooth. Those will need to be filled with tooth colored plastic. Braces or Invisalign may be the only way to change the future in cases like this...

crwdd and wear

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