Is Your Bite Affecting Your Spine? Exploring the Teeth-Posture Link

The way you bite and move your jaw is important for how you sit, stand, and walk. Surprising, right? In a healthy person, jaw joints and teeth alignment work in perfect synchrony with the head, neck, and spine muscles. But what happens when there's a misalignment? In this article, we explore the amazing link between oral health, occlusion, and body postures.

All parts of the body are interconnected. If the spine is the pillar of your body, the head, neck, and limbs are all extensions of it, acting as a single unit.

Our teeth, jaw bones (maxilla and mandible), and the associated structures (the muscles, nerves, and ligaments) form the bridge between our head and the rest of the body. The alignment between our neck, face, and oral muscles can modify our spinal curvature and dictate whether we have an appropriately straight posture or a hunched one. So, a link between teeth, occlusion, and posture can't be ignored. Interestingly, while a misaligned bite can be a cause behind bad posture, a poor body posture can lead to a bad bite, too. Let's explore how.

How your jaw position can affect your posture

The cranio-cervical-mandibular system includes the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints (jaw joints), head, neck, shoulder, and back (spine). It is regarded as a single functional unit, working in harmony to maintain balance and body posture. In simple terms, your jaws and your body are connected at deep levels, both anatomically and functionally.

Research reveals that nerves in our face and mouth are connected to parts of the brain and neck that assist in body balance and coordination. So, problems arising in these parts might affect how we stand, walk, and even move.

Types of misaligned jaw and how it affects posture

Misaligned jaws can reduce stability and increase sway — the more the misalignment, the more severe the sway.

Different bite types

Abnormal alignment of upper and lower jaw bones is a common cause of poor posture. If the lower jaw is ahead of the upper jaw (a crossbite) or vice versa (an overbite), either due to a large mandible or maxilla, you will find it difficult to approximate your upper and lower teeth. In an attempt to do so, you might be stretching your neck too much, causing spasms in TMJ (jaw joints) or a stiff neck. Your spine tends to compensate for these changes and ultimately shifts your neutral position. The center of gravity of your body alters, changing the way you plant your foot on the ground.

Bruxism, also called teeth grinding, is another cause of a faulty posture. Chronic teeth grinding puts abnormal forces on the TMJ, making them sore and painful. These changes expose the neck and back muscles to excess strain and can affect your posture.

How bad posture can affect your bite

A bad posture will not affect individual teeth; however, it can affect the way you bite and chew. It can change the alignment of your neck to your head, often manifested as neck pains, headaches, and problems in the jaw joints.

When the TMJ is under stress, you can have issues like mild to severe joint pain, locked jaws, popping sounds when chewing, and even traumatic bites. In severe and chronic cases, the joints can become dislocated.

5 easy ways to improve your bite and posture

The way out of a misaligned jaw, and a poor posture, lies in proper and timely diagnosis. Once the core problem is addressed, the rest of your body will feel better.

If your bite is affecting your posture, there is good news. Orthodontists are dentists specially trained to correct jaw and teeth malalignments. They help understand your exact problem and offer a fix.

If your posture is poor, and that is behind your dental issues, lifestyle changes, simple healthy habits, and a bit of mindfulness can make a huge difference to your body and its stability.

Here are 5 tips to start at home if you want to improve your posture and your jaw issues.

  1. Center yourself. When you notice you're slouching, try to sit or stand up straight. Keep your head in line with your body.
  2. Stand straight. Stand with your feet a bit apart, knees slightly bent, and keep both feet flat on the floor. Think of a line running from your head to your toes, like everything is in a straight line.
  3. Maintain ergonomics. If you spend a lot of time sitting at a computer or desk, make sure your chair and table are comfy. Keep the screen at a good distance so you don't have to slouch to see it.
  4. Limit screen time. Sitting for hours on your phone or desk can give you a stiff neck and a weak spine. Take breaks in between and keep moving.
  5. Relax your jaw. Try to keep your jaw relaxed. Keep your teeth slightly apart and your tongue on the roof of your mouth when you're not eating or talking. This helps your neck and jaw muscles feel better.
Seek help
If your issues do not resolve on their own, get professional help. Orthodontists and physiotherapists can help you with your bite and posture problems.

Living with a misaligned jaw and posture problems: tips to cope

Jaw issues, and related posture problems, can be difficult to deal with. Here are 3 strategies to help you live better:

  • Get in touch with a dentist. Dentists can help you with your jaw issues. They might even recommend a visit to a physical therapist or a spine specialist to help you with posture problems.
  • Do regular exercises. Consult a physiotherapist to know the exercises that can help you with your posture and balance. They can recommend easy stretches and core strengthening exercises for you.
  • Make necessary lifestyle changes. Eat healthy, sleep enough, and reduce stress levels. Be mindful of any pain or discomfort in your jaws or neck. Don't ignore the warning signs.

In summary, the link between oral health, jaw alignment, and body posture is crucial. From the impact of misaligned jaws on posture to the reciprocal influence of poor posture on the bite, addressing these issues is vital for overall well-being. Whether consulting orthodontists or adopting simple lifestyle changes, proactive steps lead to a healthier, balanced life. Your body deserves it.

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