In dentistry your occlusion basically refers to how your teeth come together. It's more than just your “bite” as you can bite in different ways depending on whether you are chewing or attempting to take a bite out of something. You also bring your teeth together when you swallow and may bring them together in quite different ways when you sleep and are not consciously guiding them one way or another. The term “occlusion” refers to how your teeth come together in all these different ways.
Malocclusion, occlusal disease, or a bad bite, refers to situations in which the upper and lower teeth, or jaw, are misaligned and come together in ways that can damage or destroy teeth.
Malocclusion can cause a number of problems, not just with teeth, but with the supporting bone and surrounding soft (gum) tissue, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and jaw muscles. Teeth, fillings, and crowns may wear, break, or loosen, and teeth may be tender or ache. Receding gums can be exacerbated by a faulty bite. TMJ problems, broadly termed temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ syndrome, can include clicking, grinding, or pain in the jaw joint, ringing or buzzing in the ears, and difficulty opening and closing the mouth. If the jaw is malpositioned, jaw muscles may have to work harder, which can lead to fatigue and or muscle spasms. This in turn can lead to headaches or migraines, eye or sinus pain, and pain in the neck, shoulder, or even back. Untreated damaging malocclusion can lead to occlusal trauma which can lead to loosening of the teeth, excessive wear of the teeth and drifting of the teeth into new positions.
Some of the treatments for different occlusal problems include tooth adjustments, replacement of teeth, medication (usually temporary), a diet of softer foods, and relaxation therapy for stress-related clenching. Fixed appliances, known as orthodontics or dental braces, may be used to adjust the occlusion, and removable appliances, called occlusal splints, may be used to alleviate pain in the TMJ, prevent further damage and wear of the teeth and supporting structures.