While braces do a great job of straightening your teeth and improving your bite, sometimes they need a little help! Braces use metal brackets that slide around the back teeth and hold the wire to straighten your teeth, but a bad bite can damage those brackets. That’s where the bite block comes in.
A bite block — also called a ramp or a turbo — is designed to keep your upper and lower teeth from touching during your orthodontic treatment. That helps prevent you from breaking your brackets when you’re biting down. Northwest Orthodontics uses bite blocks to improve your bite and speed up your treatment time.
So what exactly is a bite block, and what does it mean for you?
Bite blocks are usually made of acrylic and wire and are attached to the front or back teeth to keep you from biting down completely. The idea is to keep the upper and lower teeth from coming into contact during treatment.
The bite blocks are custom-made to fit your mouth. Depending on the material used to make them, they can come in various colors, including clear, red/pink, or other colors. They can be solid or spring-loaded. They are L-shaped or triangular and can fit on the inside of the front teeth. They can also be flat or mounded blocks that are attached to the top of your back molars.
In short, the bite blocks can adjust to all kinds of bites, including overbites, underbites, and crossbites.
Orthodontic treatment isn’t just about straightening your teeth. It’s also about repairing your bite. If your bite isn’t aligned properly, then every time you chew or bite, it can be putting excessive pressure on your jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It also can wear your teeth down more rapidly. Because this can lead to pain while chewing, damaged teeth, and other jaw problems or health issues, we want to prevent or correct any issues as soon as possible.
Some patients have a bite that causes their teeth to slide against each other instead of connecting on the proper surfaces. This can be a problem for people with new braces because a strong bite can damage their brackets.
The bite block prevents that from happening. It also works in conjunction with your braces to help realign your bite. That way, your jaw is trained on the proper way to bite while your braces are protected from damage. It also protects your teeth from possible breakage.
The good news is, bite blocks are temporary! Once your jaw is adequately trained on how to bite and your teeth are better aligned, the bite block can be removed. On average, patients wear a bite block for 6-9 months. Your treatment time with a bite block will depend on how quickly your teeth move into a better alignment.
Bite blocks can feel odd in your mouth when first installed, but that should improve over time. Still, there are some side effects you may experience after a bite block is placed.
Until you get used to it, the bite block may interfere with the placement of your tongue, both at rest and while talking. As a result, you may have a slight lisp after first getting the bite block, particularly if it’s lingual (installed behind the upper teeth). This should improve over time!
The best way to improve your speech quickly is by practicing sounds to figure out how to place your tongue on or around the bite block to speak. Let us know if you still have trouble talking after several weeks, and we’ll talk through other options.
With a new bite block, your jaw won’t be used to closing the way it is now being made to do. That’s why chewing may be a bit challenging after a bite block is first installed.
One thing that will help is to stick to soft, non-chewy foods the first few days after you get your bite block. Soft foods will also help with soreness. Avoid foods that require a lot of chewing, like cooked meats — steak, chicken, pork chops.
After a few days, you’ll be able to eat these foods, but it’s best to cut them into smaller pieces. You should be able to adapt to your new way of chewing after a week or so.
Just as with braces, your mouth may be a bit sore after the bite block is placed. It forces your jaw to work a little harder as it retrains itself to bite correctly. That means your jaw and jaw joint (TMJ) may be sore.
You can alleviate minor discomfort with over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. Oral medicines such as Anbesol or Orajel also can help.
During this time, it would also help to eat soft foods or those that don’t require heavy chewing. Mashed potatoes, smoothies, scrambled eggs, and fish might be good options for the first week or so. If the soreness persists beyond a week or two, contact Northwest Orthodontics right away.
Bite blocks can wear out over time. It’s also possible to only bite one of the bite blocks instead of both. In either case, contact Northwest Orthodontics right away. We’ll take a look and figure out whether you need it replaced or if it has done its job sufficiently and can be removed.
Bite blocks may feel “weird” in your mouth at first, but they’re a super helpful tool in improving your orthodontic outcome. Bite blocks can help improve your bite and accelerate the correction of your teeth and jaw alignment. They can even make your orthodontic treatment faster and more efficient!