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Loss of Vertical Dimension

Vertical dimension is the space between the upper and lower jaws. In a normal occlusion with a full dentition the space is ideal with the teeth and jaw working in harmony. Over time, especially in older patients this space can diminish if the natural teeth are worn down  from bruxism or lost due to decay or periodontal disease.


This loss of vertical dimension or bite collapse can result in damage to the jaw joints, severe pain or dysfunction in the jaw joints, frequent muscle tension headaches, tooth fractures and tooth loss, and aggravation of periodontal disease if present. Other resulting issues are shortening of the lower face height, an inverted smile (corners of the mouth sag), a toothless smile, frequent cracking or chapping at the corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis), and problems chewing.

Dr. Howard Kopel speaks on the loss of vertical dimension as relating to adult aging and provides examples such as shorter facial proportion, crack at corner of lip, etc.  as well as how to restore the patient back to a youthful appearance.

If you live in Southern California, feel free to Schedule a New Patient Visit with us in Zak Dental offices in Agoura Hills, Downey, Long Beach, North Park, San Diego, Simi Valley, Temecula, Valencia, VenturaSanta Barbara and Whittier/La Mirada, California.
For all your dental needs, call to schedule an appointment 833-ZAK-TEAM.


Here’s a brief FAQ to help you understand more about the loss of vertical dimension:

What is Vertical Dimension?

Vertical dimension is the space between the upper and lower jaws when the teeth are in contact. It is crucial for proper function, aesthetics, and overall oral health.

What Causes Loss of Vertical Dimension?

  • Bruxism (teeth grinding): Excessive grinding can wear down tooth surfaces, reducing the vertical dimension.
  • Tooth loss: Missing teeth can lead to a collapse of the bite and a loss of vertical dimension.
  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) issues: Problems with the jaw joint can contribute to changes in the vertical dimension.

What are the Symptoms of Loss of Vertical Dimension?

  • Changes in facial appearance: The face may appear shorter or older.
  • Difficulty chewing: Reduced vertical dimension can affect proper function during chewing.
  • TMJ pain: Disruption in the balance of the jaw can lead to pain and discomfort.

How is Loss of Vertical Dimension Diagnosed?

  • Clinical examination: Dentists assess the bite, teeth wear, and jaw movement.
  • X-rays: Radiographs can reveal changes in the bone structure and tooth alignment.
  • Bite analysis: Digital scans or molds of the teeth help analyze the bite relationship.

Can Loss of Vertical Dimension be Treated?

  • Restorative dentistry: Dental crowns, bridges, or implants can replace missing teeth.
  • Orthodontics: Braces or clear aligners may be used to correct misalignments.
  • Night guards: To manage bruxism and prevent further wear.

Is Loss of Vertical Dimension Reversible?

  • In some cases, especially related to tooth wear, the vertical dimension may be partially restored with appropriate dental treatments.

How Can One Prevent Loss of Vertical Dimension?

  • Address bruxism: Use night guards to protect teeth from grinding.
  • Regular dental check-ups: Detect and treat dental issues early.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene: Prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

What is the Importance of Restoring Vertical Dimension?

  • Improved aesthetics: Restoring vertical dimension can enhance facial appearance.
  • Better function: Restoring the proper bite improves chewing and speech.
  • Prevention of further issues: Addressing the cause can prevent additional dental and jaw problems.

It’s important to consult with a dentist for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan if you suspect or are experiencing a loss of vertical dimension.