When you think about oral health, your teeth and gums probably come to mind. But there’s an unsung hero that plays a pivotal role – your jaw. The jaw isn’t just a framework for your facial structure. It actually influences your oral health in various ways.
What Does Your Jaw Do For You?
Of course, your jaw helps you chew and eat your food. While that may be a prominent function, your jaw is necessary for many tasks. In order to speak, you need to open and close your mouth. If you have a dysfunction with your jaw, it can make this process difficult. You even need your jaw for certain facial expressions.
Your jaw is much more than just the bone. There is an intricate set of muscles that span across your face, jaw, and into your neck. The temporomandibular joints (TMJs) connect your jaw to your skull. Functioning joints and muscles are crucial for opening and closing your mouth.
Part of good oral health is to have a healthy jaw. For this to occur, you need to have a well-aligned jaw and bite. This ensures that your upper and lower teeth fit together seamlessly while chewing and speaking. Bite imbalances can lead to issues, such as uneven tooth wear, jaw pain, and poor oral hygiene.
There are other ways that your jaw can influence your oral health.
Bruxism and Your Jaw
A condition that can affect your jaw is bruxism or teeth grinding. This occurs when a person grinds or clenches your teeth. For many people, they may not notice the behavior because they do it during sleep. This behavior can put excessive strain on your jaw muscles and joints. When there is extra stress on your jaw muscles, it can cause pain.
Many people report having chronic headaches due to muscle tension and tooth pain. Additionally, bruxism can cause other dental problems. Grinding your teeth can destroy your enamel. This can increase your risk of cavities or broken teeth.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD)
Dysfunction of the joint can occur for many reasons. A TMD refers to the range of conditions that affect the TMJs. These issues can lead to pain and discomfort. With mild cases of TMD, you may notice popping or clicking sounds when you open or close your mouth.
As TMDs get worse, they can cause muscle soreness, earaches, and headaches. Over time, it can become difficult to open and close your mouth. This can lead to problems sleeping and eating.
Jaw and Airway Connection
There is even a connection between your jaw and your breathing. Jaw alignment impacts your airway. For example, a misaligned jaw can affect how the soft tissues of your mouth sit. This can lead to snoring and other sleep issues. Your jaw influences how well you breathe during sleep and while awake.
Research shows that there is a link between a misaligned jaw and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where your breathing stops and starts during sleep.