Many scientists and dental professionals have long held that bite affects balance. The relationships between bite conditions or jaw alignment problems and balance control are not well understood, however a new study suggests that misaligned teeth can indeed impact your equilibrium.
Can Your Smile Keep You Off-Balance?
There has been little research into the bite’s potential effects on balance. However, the positioning of our teeth and the alignment of our jaws play roles in our overall body alignment.
As a Daily Mail article about the aforementioned study notes, researchers previously found links between the physiological system for postural control and the stomatognathic system (the anatomical system that includes the mouth, jaw and related components). Our teeth are part of a network that includes blood vessels, nerves and tissue that extend throughout the face and head.
Likewise, the region where the jaw connects to the skull is a sensitive web of joints, nerves and muscles. The effects of misaligned teeth or a poorly positioned jaw reach beyond the mouth and mandible.
Stability Hangs in the Balance
New research conducted by a multinational team indicates that the bite problems known as malocclusions influence balance. Though the study was limited to 10 physically active participants, it was thorough in its approach; the research took into consideration the type of malocclusion, whether the subject had previous treatment for the condition, balance control prior to and following intense exercise, and body balance in both stable and unstable circumstances.
Researchers found that the presence of malocclusions “significantly influenced the balance control of the subjects.” The equilibrium of those with bite problems was further diminished by physical exertion.
Participants who underwent bite correction saw improved balance, according to the study, and the balance control of those with corrected bite problems was less affected by fatigue. The findings were published earlier this year in the journal Neuroscience Letters.
Oh, The Nerve
Scientists believe the link between bite and balance may be the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve registers sensation throughout our face, and it is instrumental in biting, chewing and speaking.
The trigeminal nerve is also connected to the vestibular nucleus, the portion of the brain that holds sway over balance. Various muscles in the neck and jaw also tap into this nexus.
In addition to impacting balance, the trigeminal nerve is a key player in temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). TMJ is a common and painful condition that is often caused by bite conditions and jaw alignment problems, which overstress the nerve and other connective components. TMJ can result in chronic headaches, as well as the jaw sticking or locking, and pain throughout the face, neck and shoulders.
There are multiple treatments available for misaligned teeth, including Invisalign®.
TMJ is also treatable via a number of methods. Many patients find relief from TMJ-related pain with comfortable, custom-made oral appliances similar to sports mouthguards; these devices are designed for each person’s unique bite, and they hold the jaw in an optimal position.
Austin cosmetic dentist Dr. Dan Matthews is dedicated to helping patients achieve vibrant, healthy smiles. To learn more about our services or schedule a complimentary consultation, please call our Bee Cave Road office at 512-452-2273.