5 Common Problems Orthodontics Can Fix That Dentists Sometimes Miss

Let’s look at 5 common problems orthodontics can treat.

Malocclusion can make it difficult to chew properly, speak normally, and maintain good oral health. Overbites, underbites, and crooked teeth may also cause other medical issues that dentists might misdiagnose as something unrelated to a malocclusion. Take a look at 5 of the most common ones below.

Ear Pain

Missing teeth and malocclusion force the jaw and facial muscles to work harder so that teeth can be at least partially brought together for chewing and speaking purposes. Regular contraction of these muscles puts undue stress on jaw muscles, leading to stiffness and compression. Muscle spasms can push jaw joints out of alignment while inflicting microtrauma to the temporomandibular joint. Since the TMJ joint and inner ear share innervation via the fifth nerve, the resulting inflammation can produce ear pain, or otalgia.

Ear pain may also arise if a molar or molars are crooked and place pressure on the inferior alveolar nerve. Tipped molars can impinge on the inferior alveolar nerve, leading to severe pain. This nerve supplies sensation to the lower teeth and branches off from the mandibular nerve, which is a branch of the trigeminal nerve.

You can often connect the underlying cause of an earache that does not involve an obvious ear infection or trauma to the inner ear to dental issues, such as malocclusion, cavities, or partially erupted or unerupted third molars. Orthodontic treatment should therefore eliminate ear pain not associated with infection or other physiological disorders.

Headaches

Research indicates that posterior crossbites, overjets, and overbites are statistically associated with chronic or recurring headaches. Children and teenagers with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) frequently report tension headaches as their main symptom. When TMD patients have their masticatory muscles palpated, many report the sensation of head pain. Doctors point to the involvement of the trigeminal pain pathway extending to the central nervous system as the reason behind the development of headaches due to TMD.

Posterior crossbites and overbites at least 5 mm in width increase the risk of headaches in children and teens. However, other types of malocclusion have been found to pose a low risk of headache in children and teenagers. Orthodontic treatment is only recommended after ruling out other possible causes (environmental, biological, chemical) of headache.

TMJ Disorder

Connecting the lower jawbone to the skull, the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) depend on the synchronized movements of the muscles, ligaments, and bones composing the joints. When one of these components is not functioning normally, pain emerges as one or both TMJs experience stress and inflammation.

Symptoms of TMD include jaw pain, jaw popping, earache, headache, and facial pain. Unless treated with orthodontic appliances, TMD may erode dental enamel due to misalignment, promote dental caries, and even cause cracks.

In addition to jaw trauma and premature joint degeneration, malocclusion is a common, underlying reason for symptoms of TMJ disorder. In fact, malocclusion is one of the most cited etiological factors behind temporomandibular disorder. Orthodontic treatments recommended for TMD due to malocclusion include anterior repositioning appliances, orthognathic approaches, and occlusal appliance therapy.

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a ringing, humming, or buzzing in the ear that does not respond to antibiotic or surgical treatments. Although tinnitus is not usually painful, it is psychologically difficult to deal with, sometimes causing affected individuals to experience depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Reports that tinnitus disappeared after patients had impacted wisdom teeth or abscesses removed or were treated with orthodontic appliances for TMD have been validated by researchers investigating the relationship between malocclusion and ear ringing. Tinnitus due to malocclusion is thought to occur when fatigued and spastic masticatory muscles cause strain on the inner ear. Additionally, there is some evidence that malocclusion could contribute to vertigo and tinnitus together if the malocclusion is severe enough.

Bruxism

Grinding of the teeth during sleep (bruxism) can chip, crack, and wear away dental enamel. Most people do not know they grind their teeth while sleeping and will visit their primary care doctor for treatment of facial pain, headaches, and constantly sore jaw muscles. Unfortunately, bruxism symptoms resemble a wide variety of other health issues that doctors may misdiagnose and treat in error.

Orthodontic appliances offer the best protection for teeth being damaged by bruxism. Sometimes, bruxism is attributed to stress and anxiety that can be minimized with counseling and antidepressants. Another leading cause of bruxism that occurs when the person is awake is malocclusion. Misaligned teeth will strike and grind against each other when chewing food. In order to chew food properly, individuals with malocclusion may put more force into chewing, which stresses jaw muscles, jaw joints, and teeth. Moreover, both daytime and nighttime bruxism may cause ear pain, tinnitus, and headaches.

Incorporate orthodontics into your general of pediatric dental practice.

The American Orthodontic Society (AOS) offers orthodontic courses for general dentists who want to expand their practice and their knowledge of dentistry. Providing orthodontics allows dentists to expand their practice by avoiding referrals for patients who need orthodontic treatment. Learn how to get started by visiting AOS today!

To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.

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