Malocclusion and TMJ/TMD
Bite misalignment or malocclusion is a common problem that often goes undetected and can cause TMD (Temperomandibular Joint Disorder, also called TMJ).
Malocclusion can cause headaches, tooth loosening, tooth wear, tooth fracture, and in extreme cases, muscle tension, difficulty chewing, speaking, or breathing, and strain your jaw joint. In a healthy bite, the teeth fit together easily. Your jaw muscles can relax when your jaw is closed. However, when your teeth don’t fit together properly, your jaw muscles constantly stress against them. This leads to the tooth problems listed above. It also leads to muscle tension and exhaustion. These can make it hard or painful to speak or eat. It can limit your ability to open your jaw.
As your muscles are fighting against your teeth, some of that strain shows up at your jaw joint. This can displace components in the jaw, which can also limit how wide you can open your jaw or even cause your jaw to stick. You might also notice irregular jaw motion or a popping or clicking sound from the joint.
How TMJ Leads to Headaches
But how does malocclusion and TMJ lead to headaches? The simplest is through tension. Your jaw muscles are the largest muscles in your head–they stretch up to your temples. When these muscles are sore, you might feel it as facial pain, or you might think of it as a headache. Even if you’re not feeling soreness in your jaw muscles, the tension and soreness could be caused by your jaw. Jaw muscles partner with other muscles in the head. Through these partnerships, tension can be passed around, leading to soreness elsewhere in the head, and sometimes even in the neck and upper back.
But TMJ can also be linked to migraines. In fact, about a third of people with migraines also report TMJ. The trigeminal nerve is the trigger point for migraines. However, the trigeminal nerve is also the control center for jaw muscles. When stress and pain from jaw muscles overwhelm the trigeminal nerve, it can set off the cascading effect that triggers migraines.
Treating TMJ can reduce or eliminate related headaches, such as tension headaches or migraines. Fortunately, TMJ can usually be treated using drug-free and non-invasive methods such as an electric massage known as TENS or an orthotic that helps hold your jaw in the proper position. Treatment can even yield quick results: many people feel immediate relief during their first visit, and full relief often takes a matter of weeks once you start wearing your orthotic.
Not all Wasilla, Palmer, and Anchorage dentists treat bite problems or TMD. At Excellence In Dentistry we treat all types of malocclusion including overbite, underbite, and crossbite. For a consultation, call us at (907) 349-0022.