Can Missing Teeth Actually Cause a Painful TMJ Disorder?

There's a link between missing teeth and TMJ

What You Need to Know About the Link Between Missing Teeth and TMJ 

Missing teeth can cause a variety of problems. Asides from the obvious aesthetic concerns that can have negative impacts on self-confidence and your smile, missing teeth can cause your remaining teeth to spread out. And any movement in your teeth can have a negative effect on your natural bite alignment. Add to that list of concerns the fact that flossing becomes more difficult, making you more susceptible to gum disease. But perhaps one of the worst outcomes is the link between missing teeth and TMJ.

We all know what it means to have missing teeth, but many people are not familiar with TMJ. The temporomandibular joint, often referred to as TMJ, is correlated with temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), a painful condition that occurs as a result of compromised movement of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Your TMJ serves as a sliding hinge and connects your jawbone to your skull. 

A dysfunction in this area is commonly associated with jaw pain and discomfort, difficulty chewing, and clicking and locking of your jaw joint. Common treatments for TMJ or TMD include bite guards, physical therapy, and various pain relievers and medications.

What happens in the mouth when there is empty space?

Missing teeth or empty spaces in your mouth can be problematic. If you’re missing a tooth, or multiple teeth, and haven’t received adequate dental treatment, here are some of the potential risks you should be aware of.

1. Bone Loss

Your jaw bones hold your teeth in place. But, if you are missing teeth, the lack of stimulation normally caused by your tooth root sends a signal to your body to start reabsorbing the bone. This is what can give people a “sunken in ” appearance.. As a result, this jaw bone loss can cause your surrounding teeth to weaken as well.

2. Additional Tooth Loss

Once you are missing one tooth, it can cause other teeth to follow. Missing teeth can lead to gum infection and gum disease which causes the gums to deteriorate. When your gums experience deterioration, they are not as strong and are unable to hold your remaining teeth. 

3. Further Health Issues

When you wait to replace a missing tooth, you are at greater risk of developing gum disease. And unfortunately, gum disease can be a precursor for other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer

4. Bite Problems

As your remaining teeth shift as a result of your missing tooth, you can develop an improper bite. Unfortunately, an improper bite can lead to a habitual grinding of your teeth, referred to as bruxism. And, in turn, bruxism can lead to damage to your dental enamel, tension headaches, tooth sensitivity, and TMJ disorder.

5. Crooked Teeth

Each of the teeth in your mouth serves a purpose. When one is missing, the other teeth start to shift and aren’t likely to shift into a straight position. Teeth that might have once been straight are no longer straight. This can weaken your self-confidence as you may be less likely to smile. Your dental hygiene may be at greater risk, and your remaining teeth can become crowded, causing sticky bacteria to develop between them, thus increasing your risk of gum disease.

Pay attention to TMJ pain.

It is important to pay attention to TMJ pain, and bring it to the attention of your dentist if it is happening to you. Typical symptoms of TMD include:

  • Pain in your jaw area
  • Pain, ringing, or stuffiness in your ears
  • Common or frequent occurrence of headaches or neck pain
  • Clicking or popping sound when your jaw moves
  • Muscle spasms in the area of your jaw
  • Swelling on the sides of your face
  • A change in the alignment of your top and bottom teeth
  • Limited opening of the mouth or locked jaw

A missing tooth can cause instability in your bite, making it more challenging for your jaw muscles to control your bite as you chew. As your jaw muscles work harder to compensate for the missed tooth, they become tense, leading to headaches and other pain. Your dentist will likely recommend the following strategies to lessen your TMD pain.

  • Relax your face with your lips together and teeth apart. 
  • Avoid bruxism (grinding your teeth).
  • Do not chew gum excessively.
  • Avoid cradling the phone receiver between your head and shoulder – use a modern headset or the speakerphone option.
  • Chew food evenly on both sides of your mouth.
  • Avoid sitting with your chin rested on your hand.
  • Practice good posture with your back straight, shoulders squared, and head up.

And though there are various interventions and even TMJ surgery, if the root cause isn’t addressed, the pain will likely return and persist.

Solve the root problem to reduce pain from missing teeth and TMJ. 

In some cases, your dentist may point out underlying issues that need to be addressed, such as one of the following most common dental treatments for missing teeth and TMJ.

  • Dental implants
  • Implant-supported bridge
  • Tooth-supported bridge
  • Removable partial dentures
  • Flipper

At Compass Dental Group in Maryville, we recognize the various benefits of dental implants on your overall health. Replacing your missing teeth with dental implants can provide a variety of positive outcomes, and can also help to relieve your TMJ pain. Dental implants can help correct the alignment of your jaw, thus virtually erasing those TMJ symptoms. 

Consider the added stress your facial muscles take on when you have missing teeth. If all of a sudden those teeth are there again, via dental implants, your discomfort can be quickly relieved. With dental implants, a metal root will be placed into your jawbone. This metal root is called an implant and will hold the artificial tooth. This permanent procedure is becoming increasingly popular and is a great alternative to bridges and dentures. 

Talk to your dentist about the link between missing teeth and TMJ. 

If you have missing teeth and TMJ pain, or you’re concerned about other negative consequences of missing teeth, now is the time to seek relief. At Compass Dental Group, we can help you get your full smile back again. 

We leverage i-CAT® 3D imaging to take hundreds of pictures of your face. These images are then used to compile an exact 3D image of the inner mechanisms of your face and jaw, showing us the source of your pain. With this information, we can recommend the best treatment for your TMJ, whether it be dental implants or otherwise. Request an appointment today to set yourself on a path to relief from missing teeth and TMJ.