Jaw Problems & Headaches
Dental occlusion is another name for the way your teeth meet when your jaws bite together.
What is TMJ?
The letters TMJ stand for “tempero-mandibular joint”. This is the joint connecting your lower jaw with your skull.
What kind of problems might I have?
If your teeth don’t fit together properly, you can have problems not only in your teeth but also the gums, the joint itself or the muscles that move the jaw.
Teeth that are out of line, heavily worn or constantly breaking, fillings that fracture or crowns that keep coming off are all signs of occlusal problems. Your teeth may also be tender to bite on or may ache constantly.
Loose teeth or receding gums can be a sign of occlusal problems.
Clicking, grinding or pain in the joint, ringing or buzzing in the ears, and difficulty in opening or closing your mouth could all be due to your teeth not meeting together properly.
If your jaw is in the wrong position, the muscles have to work a lot harder and tire. This leads to muscle spasm. The main symptoms are headaches or migraine, especially first thing in the morning. Pain behind the eyes, sinus pain, and pains in your neck and shoulders. Sometimes even the back muscles are involved.
How can I tell if I have a problem?
Many people have an imperfect occlusion, yet they never suffer any symptoms, as they adjust to their problems. Occasionally, in times of stress and tension, the symptoms may appear and then go away immediately. Or, your teeth and gums may be affected straight away and instead of headaches you may suffer from:-
- Flattened, worn teeth or chipped edges on the incisors
- Broken teeth, fillings or crowns
- Loose teeth
- Continual sensitivity
- Toothache with no apparent cause
What can be done to help?
Occlusal appliances. These can be either soft or hard acrylic. The soft appliances are generally used for young patients, the hard ones for adults. The hard acrylic appliances need to be adjusted very carefully so that when you bite on it, all your teeth meet evenly. This helps reduce muscle spasm.
Careful adjustment of the biting surfaces of your teeth can allow the jaw to re-position into a more comfortable relaxed position.
Replacement of teeth
Loss of the molar teeth can result in undue strain on the jaw joint. Replacement of missing teeth is not usually done until a firm diagnosis of the problem has been confirmed by the use of occlusal appliances.
Some drugs can help in certain cases, but this is usually only temporary. HRT can help some women.
Diet and Exercise
As with any joint pain, it can help to put less stress on the joint. A soft diet can be helpful and external heat. Physiotherapy exercises can often help.
Will straightening my teeth help?
If your teeth are too far out of line, or in a totally incorrect bite position, it may be necessary to use orthodontic treatment to move the teeth into a better position.
How many people suffer from these problems?
As many as 1 in 4 people have occlusal problems. Women tend to seek treatment more than men, but both sexes are equally affected.
For more information please ask for a practice leaflet on Jaw Problems and Headaches or look at the British Society of Occlusal Studies website (BSOS), of which Rob Bell has been a member for over 20 years (see links page).