When getting new braces, most people anticipate pain and tightness, but they don’t expect an immediate change in their bite. The number one complaint is not being able to bite all the way down, or a feeling of bite interference on one side or the other.
Not being able to bite down on your teeth when wearing braces is perfectly normal. Your orthodontist will open your bite through the use of bite blocks (turbos) or a bite plate. This is so that teeth can move freely and that the bite gets leveled faster.
Getting your bite opened up can be terribly uncomfortable at first, but we promise you’ll get used to it. We’ll also talk about what to do if your bite blocks break or if your bite feels uneven, so keep reading if you want to learn more.
Why you’re not able to bite all the way down with braces
Orthodontists intentionally open up bites for three reasons:
- The bite plane needs leveling. If the occlusal planes are extremely crooked, the bite will need considerable opening to allow for correction. At the end of the treatment, the upper and lower archwires need to look like two train tracks – parallel to each other.
- One or more teeth are in crossbite. The bite needs opening so the teeth can get out of a crossbite without interference.
- Brackets are in the way. This is the most common reason for opening the bite, and, as a result, most patients will need bite blocks at first. Brackets need to be placed in the correct positions, but those positions will often interfere with your natural bite. Biting directly on your brackets will cause them to fall off, so bite turbos are needed for a while.
So how is this bite opening actually accomplished? Well, you might notice a blue material on the occlusal part of your teeth (or it can be the color of your teeth, too). This glue is made up from the same material that goes into your dental fillings: light-curing composite.
Bite blocks go by many names – bite turbos, bite bumps, and bite ramps are the most common. Most orthodontists make their own bite blocks from resin, but there are pre-made resin and metal bite blocks available on the market.
Bite blocks (or turbos) are often blue because it’s easier to take them off if they’re visible rather than tooth-colored. Some dentists use regular tooth-colored composite for their bite blocks, and that’s okay too.
Your orthodontist may position bite blocks on your upper molars, lower molars, or even the back of your upper incisors (those are the most bothersome). Some bite blocks may cover the entire occlusal surface – like little platforms – while others will just sit on one of the molar cusps. Check the gallery below to see examples.
Alternatives to bite turbos
I know those bite turbos are annoying, but their alternative – bite plates – are even more uncomfortable at first. Unfortunately, they’re really important, especially in deep bite cases.
Sometimes, the bite is so deep, and the upper jaw so forward that the only way we can open up the bite is through the use of bite plates – regular turbos would be too small.
A bite plate is an acrylic block that’s custom-made to fit your mouth and open your bite significantly. A technician makes it in the lab after an impression is taken, and it’s supposed to sit behind your upper front teeth, on top of your palate.
Bite plates can be removable, much like a Hawley retainer, or fixed, with bands cemented on your molars. The removable ones are great because you can maintain good hygiene, but a water flosser will take care of the fixed bite plate too.
How long before you get used to bite blocks?
Much like getting used to braces, it takes about one to two weeks to get used to bite blocks. Your jaws will search for your old bite, and eating may seem confusing at first. You might also experience some tenderness on the teeth that have bite blocks on, as they receive all the pressure from the bite.
Bite plates are harder to adjust to. They’re bulkier, more difficult to clean, and they leave little room for the tongue. Some patients never really get used to them, but even a few short months of wearing your bite plate can make a huge difference, and then you can switch to bite blocks.
How do you eat with bite blocks?
You’re probably wondering – how are you supposed to eat with your bite blocks on? Aren’t you supposed to touch your teeth all the way down in order to chew food?
Well, yes and no. You’ll still be able to grind and mash food into a bolus without your molars clenching tight. You’ll begin intuitively using parts of your teeth that fit better together for chewing or even use the blocks as a surface to chew on. If what I just described sounds complicated, just go with your intuition. No one has starved from bite blocks yet.
Here are a few tips to make it through the first couple of weeks:
- Your teeth will feel tender so stick to soft, simple foods;
- Use your utensils to cut up food into small pieces;
- Stay away from chewy, stringy food at first, like steak or chicken – go with minced meat instead;
- Your bite will keep changing, so just try eating normally after the first week and see how you feel.
How long do you need to have bite blocks on your teeth
Teeth move slooowwwlyy. But you probably already know that. So expect to have your bite blocks on for at least 4-6 months, if not longer. Your open bite will gradually reduce because:
- the teeth that have bite blocks will intrude (get pushed deeper inside the bone) from the pressure, closing the bite;
- the bite blocks themselves will wear down because composite is softer than enamel;
- your orthodontist will gradually remove layers of the bite blocks until they’re no longer there.
So while you may have very tall, uncomfortable bite turbos for up to 6 months, you may still have a remnant of turbos for the duration of the entire treatment, but the good news is that you won’t feel them anymore.
Your bite will slowly close, either by itself or through the use of up-and-down elastics. Getting the back teeth to touch again is an important part of the treatment called ‘settling’, so be sure to wear your rubber bands according to your orthodontist’s instructions.
Bite turbos are so annoying, yet so worth it, so hang in there. Without them, your brackets may break or you may even chip a tooth! We certainly don’t want that to happen. Check this article on what to do if one or both of your bite blocks broke and you’re biting down on your brackets. And don’t forget to contact your orthodontist.