How Are Teeth Supposed to Rest?

Teeth can be one of those things—when we’re not using them, we don’t really notice them. So thinking about how they rest in our mouths when not in use, is rarely front of mind. But their position while not in use is vital to their health and longevity. A number of issues can develop from improperly resting teeth, from gum problems to excessive tooth wear, so it pays to know what your teeth are doing when they’re off duty.

What is a natural teeth resting position?

In the simplest of terms, when your mouth is inactive, your teeth should be resting too, without interacting with any other teeth or parts of the mouth. There’s 4 main things to consider when assessing the resting position of your teeth:

  • Tongue touches the roof of your mouth – As well as the end of your tongue resting on the roof of your mouth, your tongue should be sitting behind your top front teeth
  • Your lips are relaxed – Your lips should be touching rather than forced closed. Having to force lips closed is potentially an indication of misalignment.
  • Your teeth are apart (not touching or clenched together) – This signifies that your jaw is relaxed
  • You are not experiencing any discomfort – includes any straining, clenching or effort

Maintaining a correct natural resting position is important, as improperly resting teeth are an indication of misalignment, a problem that will only worsen in time and possibly transition from mild discomfort to pain. Incorrectly resting teeth also create a greater risk of wear—both to the teeth and jaw muscle, which can develop into a more serious jaw condition if left untreated. Further to this, if the mouth isn’t allowed to close properly, the risk of gum disease is greatly increased.

What is the perfect bite?

Everybody wants a perfect smile—but a perfect bite is every bit as important. A bad bite, or ‘malocclusion’, is quite common, and if left untreated can lead to excessive and uneven tooth wear, difficulty eating and joint and muscle imbalance. The perfect bite involves three key areas of the bite – the front, side and arch.

  • The front: The front is looking front-on, as if in a mirror. While clenching your teeth together, the top and bottom front teeth should overlap slightly.
  • The Side: At the side, your teeth should lock easily in together like cogs in a wheel. The top teeth should sit just on the outside of the bottom teeth, so they fit snugly together.
  • The arch: The arch is what you see when you open your mouth wide and look at the top of your lower teeth or the bottom of your upper teeth. From this angle, each tooth should be straight and touching the one next to it, with no spacing in between.

Should top teeth overlap the bottom teeth?

There should be a little overlap of the top and bottom teeth at the front of your bite—usually around 4mm. But you should still be able to see 90% or around of your bottom teeth. Any less and you may have what is known as a ‘deep’ bite. The top teeth should also be a little bit in front of the bottom teeth. If they are behind the bottom teeth, that is known as an ‘underbite’ and if the top teeth are too far in front, that is known as an ‘overjet’. All of these issues can be rectified with orthodontic treatment, and if it is left untreated, a deep bit may cause damage to teeth by excess wear.

Should your teeth touch when sleeping?

Even while sleeping, there should be no reason for your top and bottom teeth to touch. As mentioned above, the ideal resting position for teeth is totally non-interactive. Teeth clenching or grinding at night (also known as sleep bruxism) is a relatively common way that teeth interact while some people sleep and treatments can involve massage, stress relief, mouthguards and medication depending on the cause and severity of the condition.

What about molars?

In short, as the upper jaw sits slightly in front of the lower jaw, your molars should ideally lock together like two cogs. If the position of your upper and lower jaw is correct, then molars should come together easily rather than rest on top of each other. The area they should be touching is the flattened area of tooth, not on the tips or inclines. Incorrect teeth alignment can cause headaches, localised pain and excessive teeth movement or wear. Correcting these malalignments is possible through orthodontic treatment, which provides professional and long-lasting treatment for misalignments. Excessive wear in the molars from misalignment should be addressed, s excessive molar wear can cause longer term problems with chewing and eating food.

Where does the tongue naturally rest?

When we think of posture, the tongue is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But tongue posture is extremely important in making sure our mouths remain healthy. Keeping the tongue behind the teeth and resting on the roof of your mouth can help to keep your bite and mouth healthy (not to mention reduces the risk of you biting it accidentally!)

Are you concerned by your resting position?

Some resting issues can be indicative of larger problems – or may point to complex treatment needs down the track. Consulting a specialist orthodontist can help you understand if there is a larger problem at play and the best way to proceed to safeguard your smile.

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