Mouth pain comes and goes. But a misaligned jaw may be the cause if the pain won’t go away or causes you discomfort on a persistent basis. These bones that make your mouth open and close can be out of whack for various reasons. You may have been born that way, or the problem may be due to an accident or trauma. Routinely overusing the jaw to chew tough food or other foreign objects—such as pencils—also shifts the jaw from its correct position. Recognizing signs of the problem can help you decide if corrective jaw surgery is right for you.
Regardless of how the human smile appears, the top and bottom rows of front teeth aren’t meant to land on top of each other, especially not when chewing. You should have a slight overbite, which allows your teeth to chew comfortably but avoid impact. Unfortunately, a displaced jaw causes the rows of teeth to crash into each other, which makes chewing uncomfortable and sometimes painful.
Close your mouth to inhale, open it to exhale—that’s the normal breathing sequence. If your jaw isn’t aligned correctly, you may experience difficulty breathing this way. Those who suffer from the problem often inhale through the nose with the mouth open, a condition known as mouth breathing, according to MedlinePlus. A dentist or oral surgeon can examine your mouth to determine the cause of your breathing issues.
Every face has its quirks, but a trained oral health professional can examine your face and mouth to determine if a misaligned jaw is the reason for its abnormal appearance. Typically, you might have too many or too few teeth causing the misalignment, which results in an abnormal appearance. Children who use a pacifier for too long or suck their thumbs unchecked by caregivers also may experience jaw misalignment, according to MedlinePlus. Abnormal appearance also can be caused by chronic jaw pain—caused by misalignment—if you hold your face a certain way for prolonged periods of time for comfort.
Surgery options to correct jaw alignment range, depending on reason and severity. Oral surgeons realign jaws routinely, so it’s a good idea to get a referral if you suspect jaw misalignment to be the cause of your oral pain, discomfort or awkward appearance.