This painless procedure makes corrections to the bite by means of a dental drill using a fine stone, not at all like the one for drilling out cavities.  A fine red silk ribbon is usually placed between the teeth to mark where the teeth are touching; the incorrect markings are then ground off by the drill.

What are some of the SIGNS that may justify an occlusal adjustment:

  • Loose or shifting teeth: sometimes one sign is increased spacing between the upper front teeth. Occassionally, you may feel that your teeth do not hit correctly.
  • Grinding or clenching of your teeth:  this habit (usually stress-related) can cause an unevenly distributed and excessive biting force on several of your teeth and subsequently on the bone support which holds the teeth in your jaw.
  • Headache   may sometimes accompany   the grinding or clenching of your teeth. The headache in most of these cases will occur in the temporal regions of your head (lateral to the eyes.
  • PAIN:  One or more teeth may hurt upon eating or biting down normally.  This is usually caused by the eruption of a tooth beyond the normal plane of the bite, such that only one or two teeth contact prematurely. 
  • Sensitivity to temperature (hot, but mostly cold).  Again this is due to the premature contact between one or more teeth.  With the knowledge that one can bite with a force of up to  200 pounds per square inch, the nerve within the tooth gets irritated and hyper-sensitive.

What are some additional modes of therapy along with an occclusal adjustment:

  • Construction or fabrication of a Hawley Bite Plane .  This is especially indicated when teeth are very loose and to resolve headaches associated with grinding of the teeth.
  • Splinting:  If one or more teeth are very loose such that functioning (chewing) becomes difficult, the loose teeth can be "tied" to the adjacent stronger teeth by means of a splint.  A material called Ribbond  (which is a Kevlar material) is placed just underneath the surfaces of the teeth that are to be splinted and subsequently sealed with a composite filling material.  This technique is not considered permanent in that over time it can detach, but it is often cost-effective until an alternate solution can be found. 
  • Medication:  Muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatory medications can be used if the jaw muscles are tight, esp. during the night or when wakening.


Richard Mao, D.M.D.
Practice Limited to Periodontics
E-Mailwith Questions


402 Severn Bldg.
8600 La Salle Rd.
Towson, Md. 21286
Tel:(410) 321-9595
707 N.Hickory Ave.
Bel Air, Md. 21014
Tel:(410) 879-6969