Are you experiencing persistent jaw pain or discomfort? Does biting and chewing food become a challenging task? You’re not alone. These may be symptoms of a misaligned jaw and can potentially increase in intensity if you don’t get treatment. The first step to identifying a misaligned jaw begins with a consultation with your dentist. But understanding the causes behind an uneven jaw and the available treatment options can help set you on the path to regain your oral health and enjoy an improved quality of life. In this blog, we will explore the pain points associated with a misaligned jaw, identifying the causes behind this condition, along with treatment options. Let’s get started.
What is a Misaligned Jaw?
A misaligned jaw occurs when the upper and lower jaws do not align. This misalignment or malocclusion can involve structural and functional issues within the jaw and the bite. Deep bite (overlapping front teeth), underbite (lower teeth positioned significantly behind upper teeth), crossbite and open bite are some of the different types of conditions arising from misaligned jaws.
Symptoms of Misaligned Jaw
Misaligned jaws can cause various symptoms that can vary depending on the severity and type of malocclusion. Here are some common symptoms associated with a misaligned jaw:
- Dental misalignment, such as bite problems
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Speech problems
- Jaw pain or discomfort
- Headaches or shoulder and back pain
- Facial structure changes
- Clicking or tight jaw joint
- Popping or ringing in the ears
These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it’s essential to consult with a dentist or a healthcare practitioner for a proper evaluation and diagnosis if you suspect a misaligned jaw. They can recommend appropriate treatment options based on your specific situation.
What are the Causes of Misaligned Jaws?
Some of the causes of the misaligned jaw include:
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder
TMJ is the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull. These joints facilitate the movements you need for eating, speaking and facial gestures. TMJ disorders can cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and the muscles responsible for jaw movement. The exact causes of TMJ disorders can differ and may involve multiple factors such as jaw joint wear and tear, teeth grinding, injury, arthritis, or stress. TMJ-related issues can affect an existing misalignment and may lead to a misaligned jaw.
At Dana Street Dental, we offer a range of treatment options for TMD, taking the time to understand your concern and identify its source. We evaluate your oral and overall health and lifestyle factors to provide tailored treatment plans with the help of custom bite splints, medication, and alignment correction.
Trauma or Injury
Trauma or injury to the jaw can cause misalignment. A severe impact or accident that affects the jawbones can lead to fractures, dislocation, or other forms of damage. The trauma can disrupt the natural alignment of the jaws, causing them to shift or become misaligned. The severity and location of the injury can determine the extent of the misalignment.
Malocclusion refers to the misalignment of the teeth and the improper positioning of the upper and lower jaws when the mouth is closed. This can lead to abnormal pressures and forces on the jaw joint and surrounding structures, potentially affecting the growth and positioning of the jawbone.
The shape and size of the jaws can be inherited from parents. If there is a family history of malocclusions or misaligned jaws, there is a higher likelihood of developing a similar condition. Genetic factors can influence the growth and development of jawbones, resulting in a mismatch between the upper and lower jaws or an abnormal bite pattern.
Birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate, where there is an incomplete fusion of the lip and/or palate, can affect the alignment and development of the upper jaw. Hemifacial microsomia, another such congenial condition, is characterised by underdevelopment or asymmetry of facial structures, including the jaw, and can also result in misaligned jaws and facial asymmetry.
Misaligned Jaw Treatments
Treatments for a misaligned jaw vary depending on the severity of the condition and its progression. Milder cases may remain stable without change, while others may progress with age and development. Early intervention for an uneven jaw is vital to maintain proper jaw development and facial symmetry.
Some of the treatment options for jaw misalignments include:
Whilst a child is growing, we have the option to guide the growth of their upper or lower jaw. A functional appliance is a removable or fixed orthodontic device that improves the way our patients’ teeth bite together. These can produce noticeable improvements when applied at the right age of the child.
Braces are dental appliances made of metal wires and brackets, which exert gentle pressure on your teeth and jaws to move them towards the proper alignment. They are attached to your teeth for the duration of your treatment and can only be adjusted by your dentist. Braces require periodic adjustments as your teeth align and change position and are removed at the end of your treatment.
At Dana Street Dental, we offer the revolutionary Damon braces, which offer improved comfort over traditional braces. Damon braces are self-ligating and are held together with a sliding mechanism, unlike the elastics used in traditional braces. This reduces friction, allowing your teeth to move freely and comfortably. Damon braces come in both metal and clear brackets, with the clear ones being virtually invisible when worn.
Clear aligners are an aesthetic alternative to traditional braces. They involve a series of custom-made trays of clear, plastic aligners that gently align your teeth to the desired position. Your treatment plan is created using advanced 3D technology, allowing you to see each stage of your treatment before it begins and providing more predictable outcomes. The aligners are removable, don’t have any brackets or wires that can cause irritation and fit comfortably over teeth. Each set must be worn for 7-10 days, 22 hours a day, before moving on to the new one. Clear aligners are an ideal solution for teeth and bite misalignments for teenagers and adults who may not prefer the obvious appearance of braces. Clear aligners may not be suitable for severe jaw misalignments that may require additional force to correct.
Gaps left by missing teeth can result in your teeth shifting over time. This can lead to teeth and jaw misalignments, aesthetic concerns, and chewing and speaking difficulties. Dental bridges help address such concerns by filling the gap and preventing these issues from happening. They are fixed prosthetic devices supported by adjacent teeth or dental implants. They consist of artificial teeth attached to dental crowns or abutments on either side. By filling the gap left by missing teeth, dental bridges can help restore proper alignment and balance in the bite.
At our Ballarat Clinic, we offer a range of treatments for missing teeth to help restore your smile’s appearance and function. From bridges and crowns to dental implants, we can help you choose an option that suits your dental needs, preferences, and lifestyle.
Misaligned Jaw Surgery
In cases of severe jaw misalignment or skeletal discrepancies, orthognathic surgery may be necessary. It involves repositioning the jawbones to achieve proper alignment and is usually performed in conjunction with orthodontic treatment to optimise the bite and facial aesthetics. Orthognathic surgery is a complex procedure that requires thorough evaluation, planning, and collaboration between an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and your dentist.
Begin Your Oral Health Journey with our Ballarat Dentists
Whether it’s a misaligned jaw or teeth or any other dental problem, an accurate diagnosis to uncover the root cause is the first step towards regaining your oral health. At Dana Street Dental, we understand that each person is different. There is no such thing as one treatment fits all in dental care. Each nuance and aspect must be closely scrutinised and assessed, and the treatment personalised to provide lasting and successful results. This is why we take the time to know and understand you, listening to your concerns to ensure your comfort and peace of mind before recommending any treatment. If you’re worried about any dental issue or simply want more information, don’t hesitate to give our caring dentists a call. We’re here to help you in any way we can.