Jaw problems are not that uncommon, and while many people have heard of TMJ, there are many others that can be just as painful and inconvenient. These include TMD, which is similar, and ailments such as tumors and cysts that can form on the jawline. Fortunately, there are ways to get rid of the pain and inconvenience associated with them, and it’s a lot easier than you think.
What Are the Most Common Jaw Problems?
There are numerous jaw disorders, but let’s take a look at the two most common ones: TMJ and TMD.
TMJ is short for temporomandibular joint, and it is a type of disorder characterized by facial pain, tenderness right at the joint, and even difficulty in moving the jaw itself. For many people, the pain is excruciating, which is inconvenient because it makes it difficult to eat, chew, and even speak sometimes.
More common in women than men, TMJ is actually a group of disorders that includes teeth-grinding and even trauma to the jaw area. The disorders can cause locking of the jaw, erosion of the teeth, pain and stiffness in the face and neck area, vertigo, tinnitus, and severe headaches.
Treatments for TMJ vary depending on the severity of the symptoms, but they usually include home treatments such as eating soft food, reducing stress, jaw-stretching exercises, and using ice to reduce swelling; therapies such as acupuncture, stretches, cool or hot therapy, and even resistance exercises; and medications that include NSAIDs, muscle relaxers, and corticosteroids.
TMD stands for temporomandibular disorder and includes problems with the jaw joints, jaw muscles, and the nerves, which result in extreme pain and tenderness. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, it includes three main conditions:
- Degenerative joint disease, including osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the jaw
- Myofascial pain, which is the most common type
- Internal derangement of the joint, which means a dislocated disc or jaw, or injury to the end of the jaw bone called the condyle
Trauma to the head or facial area can cause TMD, but some people get it and the doctors cannot tell them why. The treatment they prescribe will depend on your age, tolerance to certain medications, how long the condition is expected to last, and your medical history.
- Other Conditions
Although not technically a jaw growth disorder, cysts and tumors can cause the jaw to have growths, and the good news is that most of them are benign, or non-cancerous. There are dozens of types of these growths, and unfortunately, some of them have no symptoms. That being said, if you suspect you may have one of these on your jaw, let your doctor know immediately.
Why Is Jaw Growth Disorder Treatment So Poor in Practice?
Jaw and orthodontic problems such as jaw growth of any type are usually caused by developmental problems, which include poor swallowing patterns or even certain breathing problems, including mouth-breathing.
The problems are often difficult to detect and difficult to treat because for one thing, they often involve children who are still developing. In reality, it would take assistance from the dentist, the parents, and the child working together in order to take care of the situation properly.
Unfortunately, many dentists find the problem not to be a priority or suggest to the parents that the child may grow out of it, which doesn’t always help the problem go away.
Does Palatal Expansion Work in Adults?
Yes, palatal expansion does work in adults. These devices essentially cause expansion of the upper jaw, which can help correct crossbites, impacted teeth, and even overcrowding. It is used most often in teenagers and can be used in conjunction with braces, but it can also be used in adults and by itself in certain circumstances.
It’s important to remember that when used in teens, orthodontists have only a short period of time to use these expanders. This is because a person’s upper jaw develops as separate bones until puberty when they fuse together into one. If the expanders are used in adults, it’s best if they are used by the time the adult is 23 years of age.
After the age of 23, it is occasionally possible to do surgery in order to produce the same results as the palatal expander. The only problem is, the results in adults are a lot more difficult to predict than they are in teenagers, when everything seems to go more smoothly.
Nevertheless, if your doctor feels like the expanders are right for you, you shouldn’t hesitate to agree to get them.
How to Prevent Jaw Growth?
Jaw growth usually proceeds naturally without any problems, but there can still be problems in both teens and adults with the jaw. Many experts agree that preventing jaw growth is not a good idea. For one thing, forward jaw growth is necessary in order for the airway to develop properly, as retracted jaws and narrow airways can cause obstructive sleep apnea, which can be quite serious.
Jaw problems such as the ones mentioned earlier can result in several jaw growth issues, so if you feel that one of your jaws is the wrong size, for example, something might need to be done to fix the other side.
For problems with your jaw, seek out an orthodontist who can treat your entire facial area instead of only your teeth. You might want to look for a dentist who practices orthotropics, which means they correct oral and head posture in order to correct things such as overbites and underbites. In other words, they concentrate on more than just your teeth.
If you visit one of these professionals, they’ll have numerous types of appliances that can help with all types of jaw growth problems, and their treatments are usually broken down into three different phases:
- Widening and lengthening the arch in order to make additional room for the tongue
- The actual wearing of the appliance so that the jawbone position can be changed
- The wearing of the retainer so that the shape of the jawbone remains the same
Many specialists recommend that this procedure be done only in children ages five to ten in order to get the best results. Just like using a palatal expander in adults, using orthotropics in children over the age of ten can produce inconsistent results, and that is not what parents want.
Also keep in mind that jaw problems can occur with both the maxilla (upper jaw) and the mandible (lower jaw). So if you believe your child’s problems are caused by the jaws and not by the mouth or facial area, it’s best to get them to the dentist as soon as possible.
There are numerous types of jaw disorders, including TMJ, TMD, and many others that can essentially disrupt the development of the jawbone and even the entire mouth area. To prevent overbites, underbites, and other painful and uncomfortable conditions, regular visits to the dentist are recommended.
Most of the remedies for jaw problems are best when started early, including when children are young. That being said, some problems don’t occur until people are adults, so it’s good to know that there are good remedies that work when people are older, especially if the condition is diagnosed sooner rather than later.