TMJ is often caused by an imbalance among the components of your jaw. Although this imbalance may begin as an entirely internal phenomenon, it usually doesn’t stay that way, and as your TMJ develops, you may experience facial asymmetry that is visible to others and to you when you look in the mirror. This may be due to tooth problems, joint displacement, bone deformity, muscle development, and spinal adjustments.

Tooth Wear Can Put Your Jaw Off-Balance

If you tend to eat on one side primarily, your teeth are going to wear unevenly. If you wear out your teeth enough on one side compared to the other, your jaw is going to have a slant when you close your teeth.

Often, this can be fixed by building up teeth that have been worn down and trying to chew more evenly on both sides of your mouth.

Joint Displacement Can Tilt Your Jaw

The proper orientation of your temporomandibular joint has a certain height to it. If the cushioning disk is displaced or worn away, the joint can lose height, causing your jaw to cant off to one side.

If the disk is displaced, it can often be coaxed back into place and encouraged to stay there with TMJ treatment, but if it’s worn away, there is not currently a good replacement available.

Bone Irregularity Can Change the Height on Each Side

One phenomenon that has been observed in TMJ sufferers is that their jawbone is shorter on one side that the other. Sometimes, this may be due to wear of the condyle, the round part of the jawbone that fits up against the skull. However, it’s also been observed that people have a shorter ramus, the vertical part of the jaw that forms its back.

Although condylar wear has been attributed to TMJ, it’s unclear whether variations in ramal height are due to TMJ or the other way around.

Overdeveloped Muscles Can Make One Side Bulge

Another problem that occurs with TMJ is that one side of your jaw may be working much harder than the other. This may lead to over-development of jaw muscles on that side. These muscles can bulge out visibly. Sometimes, though, the bulge may be swelling due to irritation of the jaw muscle.

Overdevelopment of muscles can be fixed by restoring balance to the jaw, and waiting for the muscle development to even out.

Spinal Imbalance Can Tilt the Head

Sometimes imbalance in the jaw joint moves beyond the joint. Because the muscles in the jaw partner with many in the neck, imbalance in the jaw joint can ultimately lead to imbalance in the neck. This may cause you to hold your head off-kilter, though you may not notice it yourself.

Restoring balance in the jaw will lead to the forces to rebalance properly.

The good news is that, with the exception of bone irregularities, all asymmetry caused by TMJ can be easily treated to restore an attractive, symmetric appearance. To learn more, please call TMJ dentist Dr. Kevin Berry, a board-certified orofacial pain specialist with the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain at (303) 691-0267.