Having an optimal vertical dimension of occlusion (VDO) is essential for maintaining proper dental health and overall well-being. The vertical dimension of occlusion refers to the space between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are in a relaxed position. However, certain factors such as teeth grinding, aging, or dental conditions can cause a decrease in VDO. In this article, we will explore how to increase the vertical dimension of occlusion for improved dental health and a better quality of life.
The Importance of Vertical Dimension of Occlusion
Before diving into the methods of increasing VDO, it is important to understand why it is crucial to maintain an optimal VDO. A balanced vertical dimension of occlusion ensures proper teeth alignment, optimal jaw joint functioning, and efficient chewing and speaking abilities. It also helps in alleviating symptoms associated with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD), such as jaw pain, headaches, and muscle tension.
Recognizing the Need to Increase VDO
If you have been experiencing symptoms of TMD or notice some of the common signs indicating a decrease in VDO, it is essential to consult a qualified dental professional for a proper diagnosis. These signs may include:
- Worn or flattened teeth: If your teeth appear excessively worn or flattened, it may be an indication of a decrease in VDO.
- Difficulty in closing the lips: Inadequate VDO can make it difficult to close your lips comfortably.
- Changes in facial appearance: A decrease in VDO often leads to changes in the facial profile.
- Pain or discomfort: Persistent pain or discomfort in the jaw joint, ears, or headaches can be an indication of an improper VDO.
Increasing Vertical Dimension of Occlusion
Once you have identified the need to increase VDO, there are several treatment options available to help you achieve the desired vertical dimension. Here are some effective methods commonly employed by dental professionals:
1. Dental Splints or Night Guards
Dental splints or night guards are custom-made devices that are worn over the teeth during sleep. These appliances help in correcting the VDO and alleviating symptoms of TMD. They provide a cushioning effect and prevent the teeth from grinding against each other, thus reducing excessive wear and tear.
2. Orthodontic Treatment
In some cases, malocclusion (improper teeth alignment) may contribute to a decrease in VDO. Orthodontic treatment, such as braces or aligners, can help reposition the teeth to their ideal alignment. This aids in restoring the proper VDO and improving overall dental health.
3. Restorative Dentistry
If the decrease in VDO is due to worn or damaged teeth, restorative dentistry procedures may be recommended. Dental crowns, bridges, or veneers can help rebuild the natural height of the teeth and restore the proper VDO. These procedures not only enhance the appearance of the teeth but also improve their functionality.
4. Occlusal Equilibration
Occlusal equilibration involves reshaping the biting surfaces of the teeth to achieve balance and harmony in the bite. The dentist carefully adjusts the contact points between the upper and lower teeth, ensuring proper distribution of forces during biting and chewing. This technique helps in establishing an ideal VDO and relieving symptoms associated with TMD.
Maintaining the Increased VDO
Once you have successfully increased your vertical dimension of occlusion, it is important to maintain it for long-term dental health. Here are a few tips to help you sustain the desired VDO:
- Regular dental check-ups: Visit your dentist regularly for routine check-ups and cleanings to ensure any oral issues are addressed promptly.
- Follow recommended oral hygiene practices: Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily to maintain optimal dental health.
- Wear necessary dental appliances: If your dentist has prescribed dental splints or night guards, ensure you wear them as recommended to prevent any relapse.
- Avoid excessive teeth grinding: Minimize habits such as teeth clenching or grinding that can put undue stress on your teeth and jaw joints.
Increasing the vertical dimension of occlusion is crucial for maintaining optimal dental health and overall well-being. By recognizing the signs of decreased VDO and seeking professional help, you can restore balance to your bite and alleviate associated symptoms. Remember to follow the recommended treatment options and maintain regular dental care to ensure a healthy and functional smile for years to come.