Ask the Dentist: Jaws can go out of kilter, just like backs, resulting in pain

Just as you can get a bad back from poor posture, so too can you get a sore jaw from it being out of alignment, writes Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast

The mandible, or lower jaw, is designed to be level and in balance, just like any other part of our skeleton
Lucy Stock

BEING a dentist, you get to do all sorts of interesting (to me!) treatments, like creating smiles, that really put the zing back into people’s day to day lives. That’s the good part – the other gifts that the job gives are a wrecked back and drill-induced deafness.

Recently my back popped again. I assumed the painful stance of an old granny and knew it was time to see about it. I was manipulated back in and my posture was assessed – abysmal was the polite diagnosis. I was shown that my entire skeleton became stronger within seconds by simply adjusting the position of my feet – super cool.

I see the same kind of thing with the lower jaw, the mandible. Our skeletons want to be balanced in a horizontal, vertical, and longitudinal (front to back) axis. When the bones and muscles are aligned our skeleton works ideally and when it’s out of balance, we get problems like pain and numbness. The lower jaw is no exception to this rule. The mandible wants to sit level, it wants to sit centred in our face not with the chin off to one side.

Not everyone has a lower jaw that sits centred and is level in all the dimensions. For some people who have missing or worn teeth, the mandible starts to tip as the bite balance has been lost. It’s much like a suspended shelf where it is pushed down at one side with the suspension cables stretched and in hypertension.

When the lower jaw is not sitting level, it actually wreaks all sorts of havoc. People can start to suffer from chronic debilitating face pain and headaches. It can even give feelings of vertigo, which is very unsettling, with its associated nausea, the feeling of being pulled down, dizziness and vision disturbances.

The middle ear houses part of our balance system. The ear is extremely close to the jaw joint so if the mandible is sitting oddly then the fluid movement in the joint space can lead to vertigo, muscle pain and headaches. Luckily the position of the lower jaw can be uprighted with dental treatment and muscle relaxation techniques to help reduce muscle pains, headaches, and vertigo.

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