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Problems Arising from Malocclusion that Orthodontic Training can Improve

Misalignment of teeth can cause several oral health issues that are likely to be misdiagnosed by dentists and doctors. That’s mainly because they produce symptoms similar to a lot of other conditions. 

Malaligned teeth can present in several ways, such as crowding, in an open bite, crossbite, overbite, or underbite. If left untreated, they can lead to serious oral health complications and extreme discomfort and pain. 

Orthodontists are specialists trained to correctly diagnose and treat malocclusion and relieve the patients of all associated problems that come with it. However, if you’re a general dentist with proficient orthodontic skills, you too can manage these patients effectively!

Listed below are some of the common complaints that patients present with that might be consequences of malocclusion left unaddressed.

1. Headaches

Although there are many causative factors that can trigger headaches, one of the lesser-known ones happens to be malocclusion. Misaligned teeth overwork the jaw muscles and exert stress on the TMJ, contributing to headaches. Studies suggest that overbite and posterior crossbite, especially those greater than or equal to 5mm, pose an increased risk for headaches in children and adolescents.

Orthodontic treatment is recommended for the management of these headaches only after all other possible causes are ruled out. 

2. Ear Pain

When the normal occlusion is disturbed, your jaw has to work harder in order for it to function well enough for chewing and speech.

The overexertion and unnecessary contractions exert undue stress on the facial muscles and lead to muscle stiffness and compression.

In severe cases, it may cause your muscles to go into spasm and disrupt the normal functioning of the temporomandibular joint. Since both the TMJ and inner ear are supplied by the same nerve (cranial nerve 5), inflammation in the joint could potentially trigger ear pain (otalgia). 

3. Tinnitus 

Investigation of the relationship between tinnitus and occlusal discrepancies reveals that a strong link exists between the two. Individuals suffering from TMD tend to experience tension secondary to excessive contractions in their masticatory muscles.

Tinnitus related to TMDs always produces unilateral symptoms. When the jaw deviates to one side, the masticatory muscles on that side are prone to fatigue and spasm. Consequently, the tensor tympani muscle triggers spasmodic synkinesis and ultimately, tinnitus. 

Tinnitus is a medical condition that is largely unresponsive to antibiotic and surgical treatment options. However, it has been shown that patients suffering from tinnitus showed a remarkable improvement in pain after being treated for TMJ disorders with orthodontic appliances or by having their wisdom teeth removed. 

4. Bruxism

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, damages your tooth enamel and inflicts trauma to the TMJ. Posterior tooth grinding, in particular, is more damaging as it activates the temporalis and masseter muscles. These are the major muscles supplying the face. Due to repeated contractions, these muscles tend to become sore and cause intense facial and head pain. 

People generally see a healthcare physician with general complaints of headache, sore and tender muscles, and facial pain. Since these symptoms resemble a wide range of other health conditions, it is very likely to be misdiagnosed by doctors. 

Most people grind their teeth during sleep. However, daytime bruxism is not uncommon. One of the most common causes of daytime bruxism is malocclusion. Misaligned teeth are more prone to strike against each other during speech or at rest and cause damage to the tooth surface. They will also exert an extra amount of force on the facial and masticatory muscles while chewing to bring the jaw into an appropriate position. All of this consequently damages the TMJ, facial muscles, and teeth. 

Orthodontic appliances work best to protect the teeth from the damaging effects of bruxism. 

A postgraduate Orthodontics qualification will provide you with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make correct diagnoses and manage patients accordingly.

At LDi, we strive to equip our students with the in-depth knowledge and skills needed to perform as competent specialists in the field of orthodontics. The course focuses on both the theoretical and clinical aspects of the subject and prepares our trainees to demonstrate excellence in their clinical careers. If you’re a general dentist looking to broaden your horizons, this course is for you! 

The FAQ Section:

Is it beneficial to offer orthodontic services as a general dentist?

Practicing orthodontics as a general dentist has quite a few benefits to offer!

You can manage your existing patients who present with orthodontic complaints right there in your office without always having to refer them to a specialist. You’re already familiar with the rest of their dental history so you’re the person best equipped to serve them in this next phase of treatment.

By offering basic orthodontic at your practice, you’re saving your patients the trouble of having to look for another specialist. Patients are always more comfortable being treated at dental clinics that they’re already familiar with.

As a general dentist, you already have a comprehensive knowledge of every aspect of dental care. By adding orthodontics as a treatment within your practice, you can get started at treating orthodontic cases sooner and expand your services by including orthodontic treatment options as well! 

References:

Lambourne C, Lampasso J, Buchanan WC Jr, Dunford R, McCall W. Malocclusion as a risk factor in the etiology of headaches in children and adolescents. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 2007 Dec;132(6):754-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ajodo.2006.03.033. PMID: 18068593.

Villaça Avoglio JL. Dental occlusion as one cause of tinnitus. Med Hypotheses. 2019 Sep;130:109280. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2019.109280. Epub 2019 Jun 15. PMID: 313833