Mary,

In dental terms, what you discuss is referred to as "opening the patient's vertical dimension."

As you've worn your teeth down, you've lost "vertical." And as a result when your jaws come together they over close (because your teeth aren't as tall as they used to be). That's what makes you mouth and lips look collapsed.

A dentist can only restore a patient's vertical dimension by restoring the height of all of their teeth collectively (all bottoms or uppers or else both, depending on the case). You can't restore the dimensions of teeth one-by-one because then only that one tooth, or those few restored teeth, would touch when you close your jaws together.

A difficulty with this situation is that a person's jaw joint becomes accustom to functioning at their new lost-vertical level. A dentist can't always rebuild a patient's teeth to their full original dimensions because in many cases this change won't be tolerated by their jaw joint (the patient may have jaw-joint pain or clench and grind their teeth excessively or even have difficulties with function).

When changing a patient's vertical dimension, the dentist must first establish what restored level of vertical can be tolerated. They do this by experimenting with the height of temporary crowns, or a temporary appliance the patient wears.

Once the new vertical (level for the height of the teeth) has been deemed acceptable, the permanent crowns can be made.

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