Dental health & bite problems, as well as jaw misalignment go hand-in-hand. Bite problems, like underbites, overbites, crossbites, and open bites are common, but can lead to discomfort based on the degree of the issue.
Even if you don’t notice you have one of these bite issues, if you’re experiencing chronic jaw pain, you might be able to stop it by fixing your bite. Connecting the dots usually includes the help of a dentist or orthodontist and a dental plan featuring aligners, retainers, or braces.
Misalignment and TMJ
TMJ, or your temporomandibular joint, is actually on both sides of your mouth. It hinges your lower jaw to your skull and ensures you can properly open your mouth to chew, speak, and even yawn.
Then there are bite problems. When your bite is off though, the TMJ is usually the first location for pain. You can feel pain when you move your jaw, but may also notice stiffness when you open and close your mouth. Some people even hear clicking sounds when they chew or talk.
TMJ issues are part of a variety of disorders, and a dentist can evaluate your mouth to link your jaw pain directly with your bite being off.
Another side effect of your bite being off is bruxism. Also known as teeth grinding, this issue not only causes jaw pain, but it can severely damage teeth.
This leads to further bite problems. When your bite isn’t right, there’s extra stress placed on your jaw since your teeth aren’t fitting together exactly like they should. This can jumpstart the need to grind your teeth and clench your upper and lower jaw together to try and find the right fit. Since it won’t happen without dental intervention, it becomes a never-ending cycle and can lead to chronic pain in your jaw.
Give yourself a bite alignment test
If you notice any jaw pain, whether you’re grinding your teeth or not, it’s time to do an at-home check to see if your teeth align properly. Your dentist can then take a closer look, diagnose the specific issue, and help you formulate a care plan to remedy the discomfort.
To check, clench your teeth. Do you feel like they fit together properly? Is there any pain or sensitivity? Can you look at your teeth and see gaps where they’re not fitting together?
When your bite feels off to you, or you can see gaps, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with misalignment. When you clench and there’s no significant pain or sensitivity in your teeth, jaw misalignment is often the culprit.
Sharing this information with your dentist or orthodontist can help them look specifically at your bite. They might then diagnose you with a bite misalignment and suggest getting it adjusted.
Types of bite misalignments
There are four primary types of bite misalignments that can lead to jaw pain:
this is when your top front teeth stick out too far beyond your bottom teeth. Most people have a slight overbite, but don’t experience jaw pain unless it’s more severe.
This is when your lower teeth extend further than your upper teeth, and is most likely the result of a jaw misalignment. Underbites are more severe than overbites in general.
This misalignment puts your upper teeth inside your lower teeth when you clench your jaw. A crossbite can involve a small group of teeth so may be harder to see.
Although less common, an open bite happens when you maintain a gap between your front teeth on both the top and bottom when you close your mouth. This can impact speech and your ability to chew.
While some people don’t experience pain from overbites, so don’t end up getting the issue fixed, all the other types of misalignments frequently lead to jaw pain and the need to make an adjustment. This is best handled through orthodontic treatments such as aligners.
Adjusting your bite problems
Working with your dentist directly can help give you the proper treatment plan to adjust your bite problems and reduce jaw pain. Using aligners is a less-abrasive way to get customized care that slowly shifts your teeth into their proper place.
At ODO, we make it easy for your dentist to manage your care with the backing of a strong aligner orthodontist. By handing the majority of the process through virtual visits, and at-home monitoring, our process can make aligners more accessible to you.
Working with Dr. John Warford, ODO expert, patients have found pain alleviation through aligner therapy, particularly while they are growing. Aligners have a “splint” effect, where it can help patients who grind at night and behave like a night guard.
If you’re experiencing jaw pain, and have been diagnosed with a jaw issue or pain by your dentist, ask if aligner treatment is an option for your. If your dentist uses ODO the there is an opportunity to treat your case with less appointments and more expediently.