Most of our TMJ pain patients and sleep apnea patients are surprised to learn that their misaligned bite can cause TMJ pain and even sleep apnea or sleep disorders. This is often directly related to ones breathing.
The culprit in the cases is very often mouth breathing, or rather breathing through one’s mouth instead of the nose. There can be several reasons for mouth breathing:
- Tongue tie
- Nasal obstruction
- Airway obstruction (enlarged tonsils, adenoids, or turbinates)
- Past orthodontic treatment
- Gingivitis or gum disease
So what happens when one mouth breathes? The tongue stays on the floor of the mouth, when this happens the upper jaw does not properly develop to its full genetic potential and often leads to narrow jaws. This can lead to overbites, underbites, open bites, and misaligned bites. In many cases, braces are used to straighten teeth. To do this, most of the time the teeth are retracted which forces the jaw and tongue backwards. This only serves to cause a constricted airway and makes less room for the tongue. The sleep apnea or snoring occurs as the narrow or smaller mouth compresses the tongue back into the airway.
Gum disease often happens with mouth breathers as it changes the bacteria flora and gingivitis occurs.
TMJ issues start with the misaligned bite or compressed jaw joints, this can lead to:
- Jaw grinding or clenching
- Excessive snoring
- Headaches or migraines
- Difficulties in chewing or swallowing
- Facial and jaw pain
- Speech difficulties
Fortunately, there are multiple non-surgical ways to correct these issues regardless of ones age. It is important to recognize how important it is to recognize and treat the causative issues and not just try to straighten teeth or restore broken and worn teeth. Myofunctional therapy is a specialized area in which along with correction, the tongue and breathing are retrained to proper breathing and function.
Teeth wear prematurely for a reason, simply placing
on worn teeth does not solve the issues. Make sure your TMJ Dentist or Airway Dentist looks at the whole picture and person and not just the teeth!