Treatment of malocclusion

Malocclusion often manifests as migraine-like headache, clicking of jaw joints and symptoms of the neck and shoulder region. Causes of malocclusion include too soft food, dental malocclusion and individual abnormal biting habits (grinding etc.)

A night guard made of acrylic plastic (individually made) is used in treating malocclusion. The night guard ”relaxes” the masticatory muscle. Physiotherapy, masticatory muscle exercise, thermotherapy and a variety of muscle relaxants can be used.
Malocclusion can also be treated with orthodontics and prosthetic treatment methods.

What is the masticatory system?

In order to be able to break down food, swallow and produce speech, the teeth, masticatory muscles and jaw joints must function in coordination and symmetrically. The masticatory system is a complex entity with a converging structure and function. The masticatory system comprises teeth and their connective tissues, masticatory muscles, joints of the jaw, bones of the upper and lower jaws, salivary glands and muscles of the tongue, lips and cheeks. The nerves controlling the masticatory system are also included in it. All the tissues connected to the masticatory system have an effect on each other. In the case of malocclusion, symptoms can appear, e.g., in the joints of the jaw and the surrounding tissues.

What causes malocclusion?

Disorders connected with the function of the masticatory system are very common. As much as a half of the population experience symptoms at some stage of life. Functional disorders affect all age groups, in most cases women.

There can be a variety of causes underlying malocclusion. In addition to missing teeth and changes in their position, untreated malocclusion and high teeth and excessive amounts of filling may have a detrimental effect on bite. Trauma to the masticatory system and systemic diseases, such as rheumatism, may also be underlying the symptoms. Mental factors, particularly stress, are a significant reason for disorders. Stress often increases nocturnal grinding of teeth, bruxism. Night-time biting is often an unconscious activity, unless e.g. one's spouse notices it. Squeezing one’s teeth forcefully together and gnashing one's teeth are also bad for occlusion. Sensitivity to disorders of the masticatory system is a very individual thing. Some people react strongly to changes in the masticatory system, while others display no symptoms whatsoever.

Do you suffer from headaches? What kind of symptoms are often associated with malocclusion?

In malocclusion, the muscles often have to endure strain that lasts longer than normally. This causes the tissues to become exhausted and may predispose to damages. Many muscles in the head and facial region are interconnected. Constant headache is a very common symptom associated with a disorder of the masticatory system. Often, stiffness of the neck and shoulder area is also connected with the headache. Also other indefinite pains and feelings of numbness may occur in the facial region. Tenderness and fatigue of the masticatory muscles are common findings. Feeling of a lump in the throat and ear symptoms, such as ache, ringing in the ears and blocking of ears are also possible symptoms.

Changes may also occur in the teeth and their connective tissues and the joints of the jaw. Wearing of the teeth may be a sign of bruxism. Symptoms of the joints of the jaw, such as tenderness, cracking and rales are the most common malocclusion-related symptoms. Also, problems opening the mouth and stiff jaws may indicate a disorder of the masticatory system.

How is malocclusion treated?

The functioning of the masticatory system is examined at a checkup visit. The need for any further treatment and examination is explored in the checkup. If symptoms indicating a malocclusion are found, a more extensive survey of the situation is performed. In some cases the symptoms disappear spontaneously, yet often treatment is necessary.

Producing an individual night guard is the most common treatment. A night guard is a guard made of acrylic plastic that fits the upper or lower teeth. A night guard may help to prevent damage to the teeth and joints of the jaw. In addition, the guard relaxes the masticatory muscles and balances the occlusion. The guard is usually worn at night, aiming to avoid the symptoms and damage caused by bruxism. It is also important to try to avoid harmful habits, such as biting one’s fingernails or gnashing one’s teeth. When malocclusion is permanently changed, the treatments used are reshaping, orthodontic treatment and prosthetics. If necessary, muscle relaxants are used in the treatment during the acute phase. Exercising the masticatory muscles and physiotherapy often also alleviate the symptoms.




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