Our Sacramento dentists use a number of different measurements to describe your teeth and your bite. One of these is buccolingual inclination. What is it and how does it relate to your dental health?
First, it’s obvious that your teeth touch, or are close to, both your cheeks and your tongue simultaneously. The side of your tooth next to your cheek is the buccal side, a Latin term meaning “cheek.” The side of your tooth next to the tongue is the lingual side, and again it’s the Latin word for “tongue.” The inclination describes how much the teeth tilt to one side or the other, if at all.
One way a dentist measures buccolingual inclination is by placing a small straightedge across a pair of molars. If your teeth tilt towards your tongue, the topmost parts of your molar, called the cusps, will be lower on the lingual side. If the teeth tilt towards the cheek, the buccal cusps are lower. While some tilt is common, ideally the amount of difference is less than one millimeter.
The primary purpose of your teeth is to chew food. Chewing creates a tremendous amount of force and the force is transmitted directly from your teeth to the roots inside your jaw. The teeth resist these forces best when they meet them straight on in a vertical direction. Tilt the teeth too far in one direction or the other and now the force of chewing is met partly sideways. This lateral force is harder for the teeth to resist and the long-term result is usually damage to the enamel and even the eventual loss of certain teeth.
You can compare the importance of buccolingual inclination by considering the tires on a car. If the wheels tilt too much in one direction or the other (instead of meeting the roadway straight up-and-down), the force from driving is focused on the edge of the tires. That edge wears out more quickly than the rest of the tire and is less likely to do its job properly for as long as you expected.
Providing your teeth with the ideal buccolingual inclination is a goal for most orthodontic procedures. If you suffer from crowding, for example, improving your inclination usually leads to more room in the arch. In any mouth, optimizing the inclination improves the long-term viability of all your teeth. Whether you choose Invisalign or braces to improve your smile and your bite, buccolingual inclination is an important factor in diagnosing and preserving your oral health.