Everyone knows that brushing and flossing is the best way to keep your teeth clean and healthy. However, did you know that how your bones are set can have an effect on your overall health as well? A misaligned jaw (or a malocclusion), which causes problems with the bite or jaw alignment, has been linked to many different conditions such as headaches, neck pain, arthritis, etc.
What Is a Malocclusion?
A malocclusion occurs when the upper and lower teeth do not meet correctly, causing pressure on the jaw or affecting how well you can chew your food. It may cause problems with speech as well as the way your upper lip is positioned.
Your bone structure determines whether you will have a malocclusion or not. However, certain factors can increase or decrease your risk of getting one. For example, the constant grinding of the teeth leads to changes in jaw alignment over time.
Also, if one side of the head does more work than another due to an injury, it could affect the position of your jawbones over time. Other reasons for this condition include genetics or previous dental work that has caused issues with jaw function for some people.
How Can It Affect Your Overall Health?
There are many other conditions that malocclusion can cause. Some research has suggested that problems with jaw alignment can affect how you feel, physically and emotionally. It is believed to increase symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress in some people because it causes reduced function for eating or speaking.
It may also have negative effects on your ability to live a pain-free life. Those who suffer from headaches or arthritis have noticed an improvement in symptoms once their bite was corrected after surgery.
How To Know if You Have Malocclusion?
If you are not sure whether or not you have a malocclusion, talk with your dentist about an appointment.
Here are some symptoms to look for:
- Complaints of discomfort when chewing food
- Jaw pain or soreness when opening or closing your mouth
- Soreness in the jaw joint area
- Chronic headaches
- Speech problems
- Pain in your neck or shoulders
- The cosmetic appearance of teeth, such as an uneven smile
- Poor posture
For more information about malocclusion and its possible effects on you, ask a doctor for help. Your doctor will be able to determine if there are any problems by examining how your jaw aligns in different positions.
Diagnosing and Classifying Malocclusions
Your doctor can diagnose or perform tests to determine whether you have a malocclusion.
Malocclusions are usually classified into one of three groups, depending on what is causing the problem: Functional, structural, and complex.
These are the most common type. They vary in severity and often come from how you use or abuse your jaw muscles regularly. This condition is usually treated through braces for some time to help correct the problem.
These occur when your jaw muscles cannot move properly, which affects how you should be biting or chewing. These types of malocclusions are rare and may require surgery to correct the alignment of the upper teeth with the lower jaw.
The third kind usually happens due to other health problems like craniofacial disorders. Some examples of conditions that can cause this are Down syndrome, hemifacial microsomia, and Crouzon syndrome.
How Malocclusion Is Treated?
There are various types of treatments for this condition. Your doctor can give you treatment options based on what is causing the problem.
Depending on the type of malocclusion you have, the treatments include:
- Fitting a mouth guard for grinding to protect your teeth and jaw muscles from damage
- Jaw surgery to reposition the bone back into its correct position or sometimes even to reset the teeth
- Rehabilitation, such as physical therapy after surgery to get you used to chew properly once again
- Braces to reposition the teeth
- Retainers to help keep your teeth in the correct positions
- Removal of teeth to reduce overcrowding in the mouth
- Appliances that help you manage your bite by using elastic bands or springs to stretch out your jaw muscles
Some people may only need minor treatment, while others might require more intensive measures. Medication can be prescribed to help with associated pain and discomfort after the treatment.
Malocclusion is a condition that can affect your overall health in many ways. It is important to seek treatment if you think you may have this condition, as it can cause discomfort and pain when eating or speaking. There are various treatments available, depending on the severity of the malocclusion. Talk to your doctor about an appointment to determine if you have malocclusion and what type of treatment would be best for you.