Although misaligned teeth may not seem like much more than a cosmetic issue, what most people don’t know is that there is a strong relationship between the craniofacial pain you may be experiencing and the alignment of your teeth.
In professional terms, this is known as the association between the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) and Dental Orthopaedics.
The importance of facial harmony and balance
The human body is designed to work in relative balance and harmony and in a perfect situation, this is exactly what it does.
When it comes to dentistry, Dr Ian likes to think about the relationship between your jaw and teeth like the wheels of a car.
If the wheel alignment is not perfect, then all sorts of problems can occur. This can include mild issues like your tyres running off more on one side to serious issues like wobbly steering which can be very dangerous.
Even though your jaw joint is even more complex than the wheel system on a car, the principal is still the same.
Causes of jaw pain
We think of bone as a rigid structure. Contrary to this belief, it’s not and can adapt to the forces applied to it. This phenomenon is called Wolff’s law.
As an example, say the top jaw did not grow to its right size due to some reason like mouth breathing. In most cases where the upper jaw is smaller, it will have a restrictive pressure on the lower jaw.
This backward pressure can change the shape of the condyle where it forms part of the TMJ, and the most top part of the jaw starts curving forward due to the articulation fossa stopping the jaw going further back.
Newtons 3rd law says this backward pressure from the top jaw also has a resultant force forward onto the condyle.
Why is the condyle important?
The condyle has to be able to rotate in the initial stage of opening the jaw. If the rotation axis is forced forward, this movement becomes more difficult and the jaw is now forced to move into the slide part of the movement earlier or has to move over to the side of the face to jump free off the articulation fossa.
This misalignment over time causes strain and even damage to the structures of the TMJ and can cause severe pain.
In these kinds of cases splints, exercises and relaxation just will not be enough; the shape and size of the bone needs to change.
This is where repositioning splints and dental orthopaedics come into play.
By repositioning the top jaw forward (without the need for surgery) the lower jaw is allowed to be positioned further forward and over time the shape of the condyle can improve and allow for a more harmonious movement and long-term stability.
Signs of TMJ Disorder
There are a range of things that can cause damage to your jaw joint. However, it is worth mentioning that just because you are experiencing one of multiple of the following situations, it doesn’t mean that you have TMJ Disorder or require Dental Orthopaedic treatment.
In Dr Ian’s experience, these are some of the indicators that you may have TMJ Disorder however, we recommend that you book an appointment so Dr Ian can review your case personally.
1. Waking up with stiff jaw muscles or joints
2. Frequent headaches
3. Neck and back pain
4. Clenching or grinding your teeth
5. Restricted jaw movements when eating or yawning
6. Clicking of the jaw joint or a grating sound when you move your lower jaw
7. Having to move the lower jaw to one side or zigzagging to properly opening your mouth
8. Worn down teeth
9. Mouth breathing
10. An unbalanced bite
11. Facial asymmetry
12. Restricted tongue movement and/or strength
What should I do if I think I have TMD?
There are many things that you can do if you are dealing with TMJ related problems. These include
- Incorporating more soft foods into your diet over the short term (this could potentially make the issue worse if you only eat soft food for a long period of time)
- Physical therapy
- Massaging the muscles
- Mindfulness exercises and meditation
- A cold compress to reduce inflammation of the joint
- Sleep guards to stop you from grinding your teeth when you sleep
- Muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medication and Botulinum toxins
For more complex cases, Dr Ian can introduce you to a range of treatments including:
- Myofunctional therapy
- Splints to reposition the low jaw
- Orthopaedic and orthodontic treatment
- Dental implants if the patient is missing a tooth
When in doubt, contact Lake View Dental
As much as we all love turning to ‘Dr Google’ and using home remedies, sometimes the best way to treat a dental issue, such as TMJ, is through seeing your local dentist like Dr Ian.
If you would like an expert opinion about your situation, we invite you to book your consultation at Lake View Dental where our friendly team can promptly book you in for an appointment.