Should Your Teeth Touch While Resting/Sleeping?

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

As long as there’s nothing noticeably wrong with our teeth, we generally don’t think too much about them. But did you know that there is a specific way your teeth should be aligned while resting? It’s probably not something you’ve noticed, but it’s more important than you might expect.

While at rest or sleeping, ideally the upper and lower teeth shouldn’t touch — not even your molars. The upper teeth should overlap the lower ones and the upper molar cusps should stay between two lower molars. The tongue should touch the back of the upper teeth, and the lips should be closed.

If you’re concerned about your teeth alignment and your bite, then you’re in the right place. We’re going to cover everything you need to know about a proper bite as well as the signs of an improper alignment. While sleeping or resting, you shouldn’t clinch your jaw or hold your teeth together in a bite, but let’s look closer at what you should do.

How Should Your Teeth Be Positioned While at Rest?

Girl lying on the bed

Having a proper bite in the resting position is important to your oral health. You can better examine your own bite when you know how exactly your various teeth should be at rest. 

Upper Front Teeth

Your upper teeth shouldn’t touch your lower teeth while resting. When your mouth is resting, the front teeth usually touch both the inside of the upper and lower lip.

The gum area and almost half of your teeth should be touching the inside of the upper lip while the lower half touches the inside of the lower lip. 

Moreover, the upper teeth should rest in front of the lower teeth, with a distance of almost 2 mm between your upper and lower teeth.

Upper Back Teeth

The upper teeth at the back of your mouth are similar to those in the front. Molars have two cusps on both sides. One of the two cusps on the front side should come in between two molars on the bottom set of teeth. But the upper and lower molars shouldn’t touch each other, just like with the front teeth.

Lower Front Teeth

Lower front teeth should rest behind the upper ones, almost touching the bottom part of your lips (or the dip between your lips and chin).

The lower teeth normally don’t come into direct contact with the lips. Make sure that your lower teeth aren’t too far from your upper teeth (a condition called an overbite).

Lower Back Teeth

When resting, your lower molars should be aligned in such a way that the upper molar cusps come in between two lower molars. The lower molars rest behind the upper ones.

The upper and lower molars don’t touch each other. 

Tongue and Lips

For a proper bite, the tongue stays behind the upper teeth, and its tip touches the back of the upper teeth. The tongue rests and touches the roof of your mouth. At rest, it shouldn’t be away from the upper teeth touching the ground of your mouth.

The lips should be fully closed but not too tightly. The lips touching each other is an indication of a proper bite.

Another important thing to note is that your jaw should be fully relaxed. You shouldn’t feel any clenched muscles or grinding teeth while at rest.

The Importance of Proper Rest for Your Teeth

Female' s face

Resting your teeth in a proper position has many health benefits. Some of these are:

  • Better overall oral health
  • Teeth are easier to clean
  • A straighter smile
  • No jaw troubles leading to headaches and earaches 
  • Better nutrition

Let’s learn about each of these benefits to see how they can improve your oral health.

Better Oral Health 

A comfortable alignment of teeth allows you to use all of your teeth properly. People with improper teeth alignment often use some teeth more than others, which can leave some teeth bearing more pressure than they’re meant to bear. When this happens, the teeth can wear out, and there are chances that they’ll chip or break.

When your teeth rest properly, they are also in an appropriate alignment. This makes cleaning the teeth easier and reduces chances of having gum diseases and tooth decay. 

A Straighter Smile

Resting your teeth properly contributes to a confidence-boosting smile. Furthermore, having properly rested teeth also affects your facial appearance in a positive way.

No TMJ Disorder

TMJ (Temporomandibular Joints) disorder is very common in people with an improper bite. Those with TMJ tend to experience jaw aches, headaches, and earaches.

An improper bite can cause the temporomandibular joints to inflame, causing severe pain in the head, neck, shoulder, ear. When this happens, your jaw becomes harder to use and you can also experience a toothache.

Bad Nutrition

Some of the problems that can result from improper resting teeth can disrupt your eating routine and affect your diet, such as:

  • Toothaches
  • Gingivitis (gum inflammation) 
  • Decayed or weak teeth
  • Jaw aches and inflammation 
  • TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder)

Moreover, when you can clean your teeth thoroughly, you get rid of bacteria and germs, potentially protecting yourself from diseases like diarrhea, respiratory infections, pneumonia, etc. 

How Do You Know if Your Bite Is Off?

Diagnosing an improper bite isn’t particularly difficult. If you see any of the following signs, then it may be an indication that your bite is off:

  • Lips not touching each other while resting
  • Tongue not touching the roof of the mouth
  • Upper and lower teeth touch each other
  • Jaw muscles are not relaxed

Improperly aligned teeth or improper bite is called “malocclusion.” For the diagnosis of malocclusion, the dentist will take x-rays of your teeth and jawbone, and examine your mouth physically. They may also take teeth impressions for model making. 

Causes of a Bad Bite

There are many causes of a bad bite or malocclusion such as:

  • Genetics
  • Congenital disorders like a cleft palate
  • Differently sized lower and upper jaws 
  • Having extra teeth or losing teeth
  • Negligence on the part of a dentist, such as poor-fitting retainers, braces, or crowns
  • Sucking your thumb in childhood or using a pacifier for a long time
  • Tongue thrusting, which is when the tongue is in the wrong position during swallowing

Types of Bad Bite

There are four major types of bad bites. These are:

  • Overbite: The upper front teeth are slightly outward and the back teeth are touching. 
  • Underbite: The lower teeth come in front of the upper teeth (the opposite of what happens in an ideal bite).
  • Crossbite: The upper teeth fit inside of the lower teeth.
  • Deep Bite: The upper teeth almost cover the entire lower teeth. There’s too much biting down from the upper teeth.

Some other bite problems include spacing and protrusion. When your teeth have too much spacing, your mouth can’t rest properly. Sometimes, the front teeth stick out too far from the lower teeth because of jaw placement. This can also lead to a deep bite.

What Should I Do If I Think My Bite Is Off?

Check for signs of an improper bite so that you can address the issue in a timely matter. It’s better to have your teeth aligned earlier, as it can lead to various oral health problems in the future. 

It’s always a good idea to see your dentist regularly to have them evaluate your teeth and bite and provide a professional assessment.

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