The body’s joints are designed to move a certain way – and when they can’t move properly, you’ll experience pain and other problems. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), your jaw joint, is no exception. It’s one of the hardest working and complex joints in the body, and when the alignment isn’t correct, it can produce miserable symptoms. In addition to the joint itself being uncomfortable, it can cause issues for your dental health as well.
But how do you know if your jaw is misaligned- and what can you do about it?
Jaw Misalignment Symptoms
The teeth function best when aligned comfortably to allow for proper chewing, speaking, and jaw function without pain. An ideal bite allows the teeth to meet without putting too much pressure in one area, and the upper teeth typically sit slightly outside of the lower teeth when biting down.
An underbite, where the bottom teeth rest in front of the top teeth, is another variation of jaw alignment. Some people are able to function comfortably, even when the lower jaw is larger than the top. Likewise, an overbite, where the top teeth excessively overlap the bottom teeth, can also be functional in many people. However, sometimes the mismatch of jaw size creates problems. Not all symptoms of jaw misalignment are easy to identify. In fact, many people have jaw alignment issues and don’t know it. The following symptoms could signal a jaw misalignment:
- Pain and stiffness when chewing
- Breathing problems – especially excessive mouth breathing even when the nose isn’t congested
- Trouble sleeping – due to pain in the jaw or pressure on the jaw when lying on your side or stomach
- Problems with speech, including pain while talking or an inability to pronounce certain sounds due to stiffness or pain
- General pain in the jaw or face, even when the jaw isn’t moving
Treating Jaw Misalignment
Not all jaw alignment issues need to be treated. Your treatment recommendations will depend heavily on the symptoms you experience and on the history of your current problem. Treatment should be highly individualized and dependent upon your personal situation. Some treatment recommendations made by dental professionals include:
- Muscle relaxation, behavioral therapy, and stress management to help your TMJ joint naturally align itself
- Special bite appliances to help adjust the TMJ muscles
- Braces or palate expanders to put teeth in their proper position
- Jaw surgery (this should only be done if the misalignment is severe and hasn’t responded to other therapies)
Before moving forward with any jaw alignment treatment- especially an invasive one- be sure you understand the reasons and risks associated with the treatment process. At MedCenter TMJ, we encourage our patients to pursue conservative treatment options. We will do everything we can to prevent the need for invasive dental procedures or surgery. Our desire is to help you regain confidence in the health and stability of your mouth and jaw.
If you are experiencing symptoms and think a misaligned jaw is to blame, we invite you to contact MedCenter TMJ for an evaluation. We are dedicated to helping you find answers to your questions and long term relief from your symptoms.