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Jaw and bite disorders are not as uncommon as you may think. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health suggests that as many as 10 million Americans suffer from some type of bite or jaw disorder. While many cases may go untreated, this does not mean that they do not go unnoticed.

What is a Normal Bite and Why Is It Helpful?

When your mouth is closed, the teeth should be properly aligned. This means that either the front teeth come down slightly over the bottom teeth or that they sit on top of one another comfortably. A normal bite is not only aesthetically pleasing but it serves to help protect your mouth. A normal healthy bite is referred to as an occlusion. An occlusion assists in prevention of biting the lips and cheeks, while protecting the tongue.

What Causes Misalignment of the Bite?

There are several things that can cause disorders of the jaw and misalignment of the bite. In some cases, it is hereditary. However, other common causes include shifting of teeth as a result of tooth loss or extraction, impacted teeth and even previous dental work. For example, retainers, braces or even crowns that were not properly fit can lead to future problems. Injury to the jaw, a size difference among the jaws or among the teeth to jaws and childhood habits such as prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use can also contribute.

What Are Signs and Symptoms of Jaw and Bite Disorders?

Signs and symptoms of bite and jaw disorders can vary from one person to the next based on several factors. These factors can include but are not limited to the severity of misalignment, the cause and the duration. A few commonly reported symptoms are pain when chewing, headache, earache and stiffness or soreness of the jaw. Speech issues such as lisp, difficulty chewing and grinding of the teeth may also be present. It is also worth mentioning that you may or may not have all of these signs and symptoms.

Is Dental Treatment Always Necessary?

Some people may choose not to receive any type of treatment for bite and jaw disorders, especially if they do not have pain or discomfort. The problem with this is that if left untreated, issues can develop over time causing the need for more significant treatment efforts at a later date. On the other hand, others may choose to have the issues corrected even in the absence of pain or discomfort solely for cosmetic purposes.

How Do You Know if Your Bite Needs Corrected?

In those who have more than a minor over or underbite, it may be quite obvious by the appearance. However, those who suffer from the signs and symptoms of pain, earache or stiffness of the jaw may be unaware that it is in fact the bite causing the problem. Your dentist can detect the problem with a few simple and painless tests that are routinely performed in some instances. When visiting the dentist, he may ask you about any pain or discomfort, perform a general visual inspection of the teeth and bite, perform x-rays and make an impression of the teeth.

How Are These Disorders Corrected?

Treatment is very individualized and is based on your unique needs and preferences. After confirming the presence of any type of jaw or bite disorders your dentist may make one or more of several recommendations. Treatment options may include tooth extraction, braces and/or the repairing of the teeth. Surgery of the jaw may be needed for some individuals with jaw disorders, especially if the length or shape of the jaw is the cause of the problem. Once again, these are just a few options that may be available to you. Rather than suffer from the pain and discomfort or the cosmetic concerns, why not call the dentist today? They can determine if you are indeed suffering from disorders associated with the jaw or bite and help correct them.

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