Holistic and Cosmetic Dentist Anthony Kim Blog Series Part III: What's inside the mouth?Dr. Kim | January 9, 2012
In my previous two blogs on “what’s inside the mouth,” I explained the tissue called the oral mucosa as well as gum tissue. Aside from just defining the roles of these two important parts of the “chewing system,” I also discussed diseases/infections that are common with these tissues and how to prevent infection from occurring.
This blog is going to discuss an extremely important part of the chewing system, the upper and lower jaw and jaw joint. The upper and lower jaw bones provide the chewing system with structure and shape. This important balance is necessary for proper speech and chewing. Both the upper and lower jaw combined with other bones in the face create the shape of the face. The upper jaw is fused to bone in the skull and the lower jaw is separate from the rest of the skull. The lower jaw joint itself acts as a “hinge” allowing the lower jaw joint to move during chewing and speaking. When the upper and lower jaw joint are not aligned properly, the chewing system becomes off balance. This imbalance over time can cause damage to the teeth and their surrounding tissue. Talk show host, Jay Leno has a clearly visible “under bite” which is why his lower jaw appears to be shifted so far forward. This is a true misalignment in the jaw joint, and can cause bone and tooth destruction over time. The only way to treat a condition such as his is by undergoing jaw surgery.
Problems Associated with Jaw Joint Imbalance (TMJ):
Excessive wear of the teeth: teeth appear to be flattened, natural teeth and tooth restorations “crack” or wear down faster than usual. Notching of the teeth also occurs along the gum line.
Gum Recession: when there is consistently too much pressure on the teeth, the surrounding gum tissue and bone are destroyed. This leaves the root of the tooth exposed causing sensitivity and root caries.
Excessive Headaches: many individuals who suffer from migraines or cluster headaches find that they are resolved once the jaw joint and bite are properly aligned.
Facial Pain: typically associated with opening and closing the jaw.
Ear Pain: A surprising 50% of individuals with chronic ear pain discover that they have been misdiagnosed as having chronic ear infections, when in fact it is their jaw joint (TMJ) causing the problem. Ear pain associated with TMJ disorder is in front of or below the ear.
Ear Pressure: around 30% of individuals with TMJ disorder report that their ears feel “clogged.” When there are imbalances in the jaw joint, the muscles in the inner ear can spasm causing middle ear problems.
Tinnitus: again approximately 30% of individuals with TMJ disorder report ringing of the ears. Once the jaw joint is balanced the ringing goes away!
Crepitus: grinding or popping noises when chewing food or opening the mouth.
As a dentist who specializes in evaluating the jaw joint, I am confident that with a little investigation we will be able to determine the cause of your symptoms and best way to care for you. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please call to schedule a free consultation regarding your jaw joint. My Inland Empire OBI Dental office is located in Riverside, Ca. (951)686-3666.
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