cranial motionIf you have gaps between your teeth, crowded teeth, tooth wear, or missing teeth, it may be more than just a cosmetic issue. These things can affect how your teeth come together when you close your mouth – your occlusion.

Malocclusion – a bad bite – has its consequences, too.

Two recent studies indicate that when your dental occlusion is off, your posture and balance may be, too. Instability in balance and postural control may leave you at risk of falls or other injuries.

For the first study, published in Motor Control, researchers monitored dental occlusion and stability in 25 participants. They found that it’s likely that sensory information linked to the dental occlusion for balance comes strongly into effect if unstable conditions, such as malocclusion, are present.

The second study, published in Neuroscience Letters, considered the type of dental occlusion, control of posture, and physical fatigue in 10 physically active participants to determine if a relationship existed among any of these factors. The authors concluded that malocclusions had a greater negative impact when subjects were fatigued. When corrected, balance improved.

In our day to day life most of us don’t notice or associate dental occlusion relationship with posture and balance. But these studies indicate it may be a factor not only in in athletic performance and injuries, but also in the prevention of injuries in the general population.

When an irregular bite decreases postural control, the risk of falls and injuries such as sprains, strains, and fractures is increased. Fatigue appears to just make things worse and further decrease motor system response.

Researchers point out that postural control is the result of a complex system that gathers sensory and motor information from visual, somatosensory, and vestibular (inner ear) input.

The set of organs and tissues that allow us to eat, talk, chew, swallow, and smile – the stomatognathic system – and its effect on posture control has been the subject of increasing scientific interest. Specifically, research continues to explore the reciprocal influence between the trigeminal nerve and the vestibular nucleus that allow us to chew and control the muscles involved in the chewing function and of the neck.

While the studies stop short of saying correcting an irregular bite will improve balance and posture, we do know if you are experiencing head, neck, jaw pain, or postural issues, malocclusion is a likely component. But that doesn’t necessarily mean orthodontics are necessarily the answer.

In many instances, dental appliance therapy may offer the least invasive technique to correct postural and muscle irregularities that may be contributing to discomfort.

Image via Starecta

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