A Meeting Between Teeth: Should Teeth Touch While You Are at Rest?

Posted on: 8 December 2017

Throughout a normal day, your teeth should only come into contact with each other for several minutes at most. Contact between your teeth will generally occur during activities such as eating or speaking, and of course when smiling. When you are at rest, there should be a 2-4mm gap between the occlusal surfaces of your teeth. This space is referred to as the freeway space.

If you have noticed that your upper and lower teeth tend to be in contact while you are resting (not sleeping), this is something you need to address before it becomes an issue.

Your Jaw Muscles Should Be at Rest

When you are inactive, for example, watching the TV, the muscles that you use to open and close your mouth should be relaxed. The result will be a 2-4mm gap. Normally, you won't be conscious of this as it occurs naturally. However, some people constantly focus on the position of their teeth.

This may cause them to consciously hold them in a position that they believe is beneficial or more aesthetic. If you are always holding your teeth together, however, then your jaw muscles are not relaxed. This puts them under constant strain, leading to pain, headaches and even jaw displacement, conditions which fall under the umbrella term temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).

You Could Be Clenching Or Grinding

As well as the risk to your jaw muscles, your teeth may also suffer damage if your teeth are constantly in contact. The enamel may become worn down over time, leading to increased sensitivity, fractures and cavities. You may also be grinding or clenching your teeth at points during the day. Daytime clenching or grinding is linked to stress and if not treated, can leave your teeth in poor condition.

Clenching while deep in concentration or while lifting weights is also harmful to your teeth and jaw muscles.

Should Your Teeth Touch When You Swallow?

The only other time, apart from when you are eating, speaking or smiling that your teeth should touch, is when you swallow. In fact, swallowing without bringing your teeth together may prove challenging for some because it is normally an unconscious action.

If you find that your teeth are in contact even while resting, your bite may need adjusting with orthodontic treatment. You may also need to wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth from further damage. Moreover, ask your general dentist to put you in touch with an orthodontist or a dentist who is experienced in treating cases of TMJ if you are not sure where to start.