We get many phone calls asking “Why is my jaw numb?” Any numbness in your jaw or face is a cause for concern. This issue could have a number of causes, but one the most common is a condition known as malocclusion. This occurs when the alignment of your teeth is incorrect. Any numbness in your jaw or face should be reported to your dentist as soon as possible so that a cause and appropriate course of treatment can be determined.
What causes malocclusion?
Malocclusion is generally an inherited condition, however, there are a few conditions or lifestyle habits that can cause the structure of your jaw to become altered, including:
- Using a pacifier past age three
- Sucking your thumb during early childhood
- Prolonged bottle feeding
- Improperly fitted dental crowns, fillings, or braces
- Abnormally shaped teeth
- Tumors in the jaw
Any change in the structure of your jaw or in your bite should be reported to your dentist as soon as possible.
What are the symptoms of malocclusion?
In addition to some numbness in the jaw, malocclusion has a number of other accompanying symptoms:
- Improper or changing tooth alignment
- Changes in facial appearance
- Discomfort when biting down or chewing food
- The sudden or gradual development of a lisp or other changes in speech
- Breathing through the mouth
Types of malocclusion
There are three basic types of malocclusion. In a Class 1 malocclusion, the upper teeth hang over the lower teeth. The overlap is very slight and your bite will generally feel normal. This is the most common type of malocclusion. In a Class 2 malocclusion, the overbite will be severe, with the upper teeth significantly overhanging the lower teeth. This is less common and known as retrognathism. In a Class 3 malocclusion, the lower teeth seriously protrude from the upper teeth. This severe type of underbite is known as prognathism.
How are malocclusions treated?
If the malocclusion is only mild, chances are treatment will not be necessary. However, if you have a Class 2 or Class 3 malocclusion, there are a number of treatments that may be recommended, including:
- Removal of teeth, if the malocclusion is caused by overcrowding
- Braces to reposition teeth
- Dental bonding, reshaping, or capping of the teeth
- Plates or wires to stabilize the jaw
- Oral surgery to reshape the jaw
Any change in the way your jaw feels should not be ignored. It is important to have these types of changes evaluated by Dr. Hildebrant to ensure that a more serious dental issue does not exist, and so that treatment can begin as soon as possible. This is essential to ensuring your optimal dental and oral health.