You’re in the middle of a boring class, or a meeting that’s dragging on and on, and open your mouth wide for a big yawn. Was that a click you heard? A pop, maybe? Is it painful opening your mouth that wide? This is just one common example of jaw joint discomfort, a problem that can sometimes be debilitating. There are several factors that can cause or contribute to jaw pain, including a bad bite, which is an issue orthodontists see often.
When teeth don’t fit together properly, it can put tremendous strain on your entire dental structure. This results in pain and discomfort in the jaw joints while the teeth themselves remain pain-free. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about a “bad bite”? Can an orthodontist treat it? If so, how? Are there other causes for jaw pain? Our team here at Webb Family Orthodontics explore the answers to these questions and more below.
When orthodontists talk about a bad bite, they’re referring to the relationship between teeth in the upper and lower arch; in particular, alignment concerns that may prevent the opposing teeth and jaws from biting together properly. With any abnormal bite situation, the body will try and compensate for that discrepancy by including the jaw joints, facial muscles, and ligaments in an effort to get the teeth to fit together properly. Over time, the misuse of those joints, muscles, and ligaments can result in increasing pain and discomfort.
Bad bites are usually the result of inherited conditions, but there are a number of things that can change the shape and structure of your jaw, such as:
prolonged use of a pacifier
extended thumb sucking
tumors in the mouth or jaw
abnormally shaped teeth
improperly fitted dental fillings, crowns, or braces
Jaw joint discomfort and pain
There can be many reasons why a person might be experiencing jaw joint discomfort and pain. Injury, degenerative conditions, and general wear and tear can be responsible, as well as the imbalance between teeth and jaws caused by a bad bite. Trying to chew food, swallow, speak, yawn, smile, and talk daily with a dental system that’s out of balance in one or more ways can present significant challenges for patients, varying from excessive wear and tear on teeth to symptoms like headaches, jaw pain, and muscle tension.
Getting to the bottom of where this discomfort is originating is essential in establishing a successful orthodontic plan. A qualified and experienced orthodontist can diagnose abnormalities involving tooth misalignment, jaw position, jaw size, and joint health. Getting to the cause of discomfort is essential to establishing a successful treatment plan and involves diagnosing abnormalities with tooth alignment, jaw position and size, and joint health.
The goal is to shift all parts of the dental structure back into their optimal position, so that any pain relating to a bad bite or other issue can be resolved. Fortunately, braces are a form of orthodontic treatment that’s long been considered one of the most effective and reliable means of treating crooked, crowded, and misaligned teeth and jaws.
How braces work on bad bites
In general, braces are the most common fixed appliance used to treat a bad bite because they’re affordable, effective, and can be used to treat a spectrum of bad bites, from mild to severe.
Braces are usually made out of metal brackets, wires, and elastic bands. The bands are placed or fixed around the teeth, which act as anchors for the braces. The brackets are bonded to the front teeth, and arch wires are then passed through the brackets and attached to the bands. The arch wires are tightened to put tension on the teeth, helping to gradually move them to their proper places, straightening the teeth and improving overall oral health.
In the past, traditional metal braces could be bulky and unsightly, but modern braces are much smaller, lighter, and more aesthetically pleasing than their predecessors. They also come in different colors and styles, allowing for a bit of customization.
The length of time a patient will need orthodontic treatment via braces will vary depending on the severity of their bad bite. It’s important for patients to keep their follow-up adjustment appointments, so that the braces can be adjusted according to progress.
Is there an optimal age to get braces?
If you happen to have a bad bite, there’s a pretty good chance that you inherited it from either one of your parents. However, habits such as tongue thrusting, mouth breathing, premature loss of teeth, and thumb sucking can also lead to misalignment.
A bad bite will often become noticeable between the ages of six and twelve, right around the same time that a child’s permanent teeth are starting to erupt. This is one reason we always recommend a child have their first orthodontic evaluation by or around seven years old, as this is a time when they still have an ideal mix of both baby and adult teeth.
We also recommend orthodontic treatment early on is because it’s easier for us to spot the developing teeth and jaw growth in younger patients. This allows us to better plan out any orthodontic treatment needed, and adjust it to any problems that could occur in the future.
For optimal results, orthodontists recommend braces, or any other form of orthodontic treatment, begin between the ages of eight and fourteen. Of course, children and teenagers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from dental braces! Adults can also undergo orthodontic treatment to help correct a bad bite. The process is the same, but the treatment time may be longer for adults.
Eliminating jaw pain with Webb Family Orthodontics
If you or your child are experiencing jaw pain and suspect a bad bite is to blame, your first step should be scheduling an appointment with a qualified orthodontist. Here at Webb Family Orthodontics, we offer a complimentary consultation to new patients and have years of experience treating children, teens, and adults for a wide range of orthodontic issues. With offices conveniently located in Hixson and Soddy Daisy, and a friendly staff dedicated to making you feel welcome the moment you walk in our doors, Webb Family Orthodontics is Chattanooga’s choice for top quality orthodontic care. To find out how we can help you achieve a healthier mouth and straighter smile, get in touch today!