Your jaw joints (one right in front of each ear) rotate when you open and close, but they can also slide forward and down a very slippery slope when you open wide or push your chin forward. When you close, the muscles that pull your lower jaw up until the lower teeth hit their chewing partners on the upper also pull the jaw joints back up their starting position in the sockets. In an ideal situation, the joints stay in that position when the teeth come together, hitting evenly and at the exact same time on each tooth.
However, if there is one tooth that gets in the way of your other teeth, your jaw will reflexively shift and slide forward on one or both sides to find a spot where the most teeth come together. This is a way for your body to protect itself from injury caused by chewing on just one tooth.
Over time, this shift can cause a whole host of problems from TMJ pain and headaches to temperature sensitivity, recession, broken and loose teeth, and facial pain. Fortunately, these bite discrepancies are very often treatable with minimal dentistry needed.
Once the problem has been diagnosed, we make models of your teeth and mount them on an instrument that shows my exactly how your teeth come together when the joints are in the right position. Using these models I can discover the best, easiest, and least invasive way to correct the problem. Very often the solution involves a procedure called Occlusal Equilibration.
Occlusal equilibration involves minor reshaping of the teeth to allow them to fit together like puzzle pieces when the jaw joint is seated completely in the socket. This allows the muscles to relax and very often eliminates pain and sensitivity within days if not hours.
This may sound like extensive work or even a painful procedure, but it can actually be a very conservative, pain-free and effective method. Think of the reshaping of your teeth like filing your nail. In the case of equilibration, though, it is so slight that you would not notice a difference in shape. You will likely notice a big difference when you bite, though.