Jaw alignment is an important aspect of oral health, though it’s one of those things many patients don’t think much about unless there is an issue. When your jaw is misaligned, pain and oral health problems can result. In severe cases, an action as simple as opening one’s mouth can cause serious pain. Those problems aren’t limited to the jaw, either. Misalignment also has a direct impact on the health and functionality of your teeth.
Your teeth are designed to work as a unit. Front teeth and canines allow you to cut through tough food, and molars allow you to chew food completely before swallowing. It’s a simple system that works quite well when the jaw is properly aligned. Alignment issues, however, can upset the system, causing uneven wear and making eating difficult or even painful. If you have jaw alignment issues, it’s very important to speak with your dentist and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
Tips From Your Downtown Calgary Dentist: The Basics of Jaw Alignment
The medical term for your jaw alignment, or “bite,” is occlusion. Ideal occlusion means that your teeth meet as they should when you open or close your jaw. Malocclusion refers to any bite which differs from the ideal. You may have heard malocclusion referred to as an overbite, underbite, or crossbite, each of which describes a different variation of misalignment.
- While chewing is important, the alignment of your teeth is also meant to protect you from biting your tongue or cheek. When your jaw is misaligned, frequent, accidental biting of these areas can be very problematic.
- Malocclusion can bring about a variety of symptoms, depending on type and severity. You may have loose teeth, pain in the temporomandibular (jaw) joint, uneven tooth wear, muscle spasms, or pain while biting down. Your dentist can help you identify these symptoms, and their root causes.
- Occlusion isn’t limited only to your jaw. The position of your teeth, whether they’re crowded, and whether they’re twisted or damaged can all contribute to malocclusion. A misaligned jaw only exacerbates these problems.
Tips From Your Downtown Calgary Dentist: Dental Treatments for Malocclusion
If you’re dealing with malocclusion, you have a variety of treatment options available. The right choice for you will depend on the severity of your malocclusion, and your dentist’s determination of its root causes. Surgery is typically a last-resort option, as alignment issues can often be rectified through less invasive means like orthodontics or behavioural therapy.
- Behavioural therapy is primarily used to address the muscles around the jaw. Tightness in those muscles can cause malocclusion, and behavioural therapy teaches you relaxation techniques to minimize the strain on those muscles.
- If behavioural therapy alone isn’t enough, your dentist may prescribe a custom-fit bite appliance to address joint and muscle issues in your jaw. Your appliance will be designed to help you relax the jaw joint and muscles so your bite can return to the proper position.
- Orthodontic treatments, like dental braces, address malocclusion by moving your teeth into the proper position over time. Your dentist may suggest removing teeth as well, to eliminate overcrowding. Putting your teeth in the correct position is one of the most effective ways to address misalignment.
- Surgery to reshape or realign the jaw is sometimes necessary to correct the most severe cases of malocclusion. In general, surgery is only an option when other treatments fail.
Malocclusion is very common, but it’s also an issue of degrees. Few people have perfectly aligned teeth, and mild cases of malocclusion rarely cause symptoms that require treatment. Moderate and severe cases, however, are often very painful, with symptoms that grow worse over time. The potential damage from malocclusion is wide-ranging, and affects all aspects of your mouth.
If you’re having issues with the alignment of your jaw or teeth, it’s best to speak with your dentist about the problem as soon as possible. Addressing malocclusion early gives you a chance to avoid the more invasive treatment options, and deal with the issue as comfortably as possible. Talk to your dentist to get a full diagnosis, and develop a treatment plan that addresses the unique causes of your malocclusion.
Loreen Wong Dentistry of downtown Calgary offers all of the services you need to keep your mouth healthy and happy. Great oral health is a key component of overall health, and we’re here to provide for your oral health needs with a smile!