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Bite blocks, also known as ramps or turbos, are tiny devices sometimes used to support orthodontic treatment with braces.
Dentists may recommend braces to align teeth. Braces consist of brackets that are fixed to the teeth and connected with an archwire. Braces apply gentle pressure to the teeth, helping them move into the desired position.
You may need bite turbos on the back or front teeth to achieve good results from braces. They help by preventing the upper and lower teeth from touching, thereby keeping you from breaking your brackets when biting down.
Altering how you bite alleviates pressure on the brackets. The result is faster and more effective teeth alignment and a healthy smile.1
Bite blocks are custom-made to fit your mouth and have various styles. They can be removable or fixed to the teeth. Sometimes, they’re spring-loaded to increase the pressure on the teeth.
Removable bite blocks are usually made of soft materials like silicone, gel, or acrylic and come in different colors. Fixed bite blocks are made of glass ionomer cement, bonding resin, or metal.2
If you clench or grind your teeth, a dentist may recommend bite turbos. Bite turbos help fix the alignment of your bite. If you have a misaligned bite, every time you chew or clench your teeth, you put excessive pressure on your jaw and temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Bite turbos help relieve the pressure on both your TMJ and teeth.
Usually, bite blocks are used together with conventional dental braces to help realign your bite. However, sometimes orthodontists use them by themselves. For example, in children, bite blocks can help correct a crossbite.3
As with any orthodontic treatment, bite turbos can cause some side effects, especially at first. Here are some of the most common issues:
Bite turbos change how your jaw muscles work. You'll need time to get used to the new position and learn to eat properly.4
While adjusting, it's best to eat softer foods that require less chewing. It's also helpful to cut food into pieces and take smaller bites. After about a week, you'll adapt as your jaw muscles become accustomed to the new position.
Bite blocks may change the way your tongue moves when you speak. You may find it hard to pronounce certain vowel sounds and words. This problem is more common with bite turbos attached to the inside (lingual) surface of the teeth.
As with chewing, you'll eventually adjust as your jaw and tongue muscles adapt to the bite block. It may help to practice speaking when you’re alone. But if speech impairments persist, you might need to work with a speech and language pathologist.
Braces and bite turbos can be uncomfortable at first. Your mouth may also become dry and sore as your tongue adjusts to the new shape. But again, this should improve with time.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) can ease discomfort. But if you experience any pain or swelling, contact your dentist immediately. They'll adjust the bite block if necessary.
Bite blocks can become fragile, come off, or wear down over time. Without fully functioning bite blocks, you risk damaging your braces and teeth.
If you notice a block is missing or damaged, contact your orthodontist immediately so they can assess your mouth and replace the bite block.
During treatment, your bite shifts, and your teeth may touch only one block. Even though it may feel strange, it's normal and expected.
Providing you’re not in pain, your dentist may not need to do anything about the problem. But ask them for advice if biting on one block is causing other issues.
Bite blocks are temporary devices that realign the jaw and teeth while wearing braces. They work by gently separating your upper and lower teeth, improving your bite alignment and speeding up treatment time.
Although bite turbos can feel uncomfortable, they shouldn't cause any pain. However, you may have some issues chewing food and speaking at first. Call your orthodontist for advice and replacement if a bite block gets damaged or comes off.
Here are some common concerns about bite blocks:
Bite blocks are temporary. Every treatment is different, but you will have bite blocks until your jaw and teeth are adequately aligned. Expect to have them in position for 6 to 9 months.5
No, you shouldn't swallow a bite block. But if it happens by accident, don't panic. It will likely pass through your digestive system without any problems. Call your orthodontist to replace it and ensure your bite is still aligned correctly.
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any breathing issues, swelling, or discomfort after swallowing a bite block.6
You should clean bite blocks regularly to keep them free of bacteria and debris. You can brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste while brushing your teeth.
No, bite blocks shouldn't cause pain. They may feel slightly uncomfortable while you get used to them, but they shouldn't hurt or rub.
Contact your orthodontist if you experience pain while your bite blocks are in place.
To make eating with bite blocks easier, it's best to stick with soft, easy-to-chew foods. Soft fruits and vegetables, purees, soups, fish, scrambled eggs, and smoothies are all good choices. Avoid hard, crunchy, or chewy foods that could damage your bite blocks.
You can brush your teeth with bite blocks in place, but it may take practice. Start by brushing around the blocks, paying special attention to the areas between them and your gums. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste for best results.
Your orthodontist may suggest using an interdental brush to clean the gaps between your teeth and bite blocks.
If a bite block is cracked, broken, or comes off completely, contact your orthodontist as soon as possible. They may need to replace the block to ensure your teeth stay properly aligned while wearing braces.
If you have fixed bite turbos, your orthodontist removes them for you. They'll use special tools to gently pry them off your teeth without causing any damage.
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