Jaw misalignment is considered to be one of the main causes of TMJ, and treatment of this disorder often focuses solely on re-aligning the jaw in order to reduce the amount of pain and discomfort associated with this condition. Jaw misalignment is characterized by the jaw joint moving out of alignment, and occurs as a result of the muscles of the jaw as well as those used to chew the food not working properly.
These muscles may malfunction due to poor chewing habits, grinding the teeth or clenching the jaw repeatedly, bad bite due to broken or missing teeth, poorly fitting dentures, unusual movements of the neck, poor posture (which may affect the muscles and bone alignments in the spine, neck, and subsequently, jaw areas), an inherited deviation mandibular deviation, and some diseases of the joints (including arthritis).
However, it is believed that both jaw misalignment, weak muscles, and bad bite can at times all be a cause of the other; a bad bite (otherwise known as malocclusion, or a misalignment of teeth or bad fitting of the teeth) and the associated poor chewing may cause the jaw to eventually become misaligned, while weak muscles may also cause the jaw to move improperly and shift to one side, and, in some cases, eventually mis-aligning the teeth and creating a bad bite. Either of the above disorders may be the cause of the other.
In further detail, a jaw may become mis-aligned as follows:
The joints in the jaw area move and function with the aid of these jaw muscles, and have are joined by a disk connecting the ball and socket of the joint; however, once the muscles, or any other of the above parts of the joint, begin to malfunction this can create jaw misalignment. More specifically, once the muscles begin to malfunction, they may also weaken, resulting in the jaw not only becoming misaligned but also overworking to compensate and creating stress and tension on this joint.
Other muscle malfunctioning may occur as a result of continual tightening of the jaw muscle – a jaw muscle that is permanently clenched loses its ability to relax and un-clench, and over time this may cut off the blood supply to this muscle, causing it to constrict, affect jaw movement, and affecting the jaw joint’s ability to move or function (this may lead to a symptom known as lock jaw).
A malocclusion may also result from weak and shifting muscles which cause the jaw to move abnormally and affect the patient’s ability to chew properly, the malocclusion may cause the jaw to move abnormally as well, and may be another cause of a jaw misalignment in addition to or instead of the weak muscles. Finally, teeth grinding or clenching may also cause a jaw misalignment either due to the bad bite which it may create, or the abnormal stress which is placed on the jaw joint itself,as chronic stress may also create a jaw misalignment as well.
In general, muscle malfunction, stress on the joint area which causes it to move abnormally, and inherited joint disorders all may contribute to jaw misalignment. This joint is prone in particular to misalignment due to its structure as well as complexity; the tempromandibular joint, unlike the joints of the fingers or toes, actually functions with two joints that control the movements of sliding and rotating separately. This structure makes it more susceptible to its the cartilage and bone components wearing down, eventually leading to jaw misalignment.
Overall, jaw misalignment is a result of many factors and habits, and its causes should always be investigated thoroughly; this condition is one of the main and most common causes of tmj, and hence should not be taken lightly or left un-treated.