When you look at a pair of scales, you can see that it doesn’t take much to tip them to one side. It’s the same thing when it comes to the balance of upper to lower teeth.
The position of teeth are designed so that the upper row meets in a harmoniously manner to those below. This enables the functions of chewing and speaking to occur smoothly, and with balance. Yet, the delicate balance of how teeth meet can be disrupted by very slight margins, which can occasionally lead to problems that can be both painful and costly to repair.
The imbalance of the bite can be the source of some headaches, migraines, tender jaws, jaw popping, difficulty opening the mouth fully, ear ringing, and dizziness. This stems from the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) becoming inflamed or strained. Although seemingly ‘distant’ from where teeth are aligned, the jaw joints are actually very much involved (and dependent) on how the teeth meet.
The jaw joints are located on each side of the head just in front of the ears. They hinge the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. Each time you bite, chew, or speak, the hinges rotate inside the joints. When the teeth are not functioning together harmoniously, neither do the joints.
Teeth that fail to meet properly can “hit wrong.” When this occurs, the results can be chipped, broken, fractured, or cracked teeth. At night, the jaws can subconsciously move in search of a harmonious position. This is typically the reason for clenching or grinding of teeth during sleep (known as ‘bruxing’). The forces of grinding can also cause worn teeth; teeth that become flattened off at the tops.
Imagine the forces of grinding so severe to be able to crack a walnut. This is how strong some grinding forces are, so it’s easy to see why this strain on surrounding muscles and other structures could lead to frequent headaches or waking up with sore jaw joints.
Just how much, or little, of a disparity in the bite can lead to all these issues? It can take as little as a millimeter (1/25th of an inch) to create this domino effect.
How can a once properly-fitting bite become misaligned? After all, most people can go well into adulthood before these problems emerge.
One cause can be the slow shifting of teeth as we age. Too, when natural teeth are already out of alignment, even just slightly, over time they can move out of place to a greater degree. One crooked tooth tends to cause neighboring teeth to move. This can also lead to crowding, where several teeth jam together in a crooked bunch. In addition to bite misalignment, this can detract from the appearance of a smile.
A missing tooth can also be the reason that neighboring teeth shift out of place. Problems can also be the result of genetic makeup, such as an overbite or underbite. This is when the upper jaw or lower jaw is positioned too far forward. An accident or injury can also be the trigger for development of these issues.
Yet, the long and short of it is this: No matter what the reason, people who suffer with TMJ disorders often find themselves with debilitating discomfort, sometimes pain that is constant. It is the reason for your pain, however, that is the root of the problem and what we need to address in order to resolve your issues.
While general dentists’ training includes checking bite alignment (which you may notice is being done during your 6-month check-ups), they are typically looking at how the teeth meet. They are not, as a rule, skilled in assessing how the teeth, jaws, muscles, and TMJ interact in unity, which is where a neuromuscular dentist comes in.
A neuromuscular dentist has advanced training in the congruity of all structures that are effected by bite misalignment, including TMJ disorders. And, as a neuromuscular dentist who has devoted herself to the highest level of training in this area, I’ve also incorporated advanced equipment and technology to aid in the proper diagnosis of bite disparities. This means we can find the true source of your pain and treat it with the most conservative measures needed.
In some instances, we can resolve TMJ disorders easily, such as in the minor reshaping of selected teeth. Others may require more extensive adjustments, such as crowns on selected teeth to correct tooth height. Or, orthodontic treatment may be involved. In these cases, we can provide both traditional braces or Invisalign. Some adults, especially, prefer Invisalign since it does not create an awkward “wire mouth” appearance and eliminates the prickly feel of brackets.
It’s amazing how successful treatment can change lives. We’ve had patients who have suffered for years, even decades, with headaches, dizziness and/or migraines who tell us they were told, for years, that their pain was imagined. Some were given muscle relaxers so strong they felt like zombies during the day. Others lived in fear that a migraine was right around the corner and even thankful when their day only involved a constant headache. This is no way to live. There is a solution.
If you’ve been suffering with any of the symptoms of TMJ disorder or suspect your bite is misaligned, you can be successfully treated without medications and, like many, often in just a few weeks or a couple of months. In the right hands, your pain and discomfort can be erased and you can get your life back!
To begin, call 586-739-2155 or tap here to schedule a no-charge, private session where we can discuss your symptoms and medical/dental histories. I’ll explain our diagnostic process and answer your questions thoroughly. From there, you can determine how you wish to go forward. We will also be happy to put you in touch with some of our patients who have had similar problems to yours.
If I suspect that your bite alignment is not to blame for your problems, I’ll be happy to make suggestions that can hopefully redirect your search for a solution.