If you’re wondering can wisdom teeth cause TMJ, you’re probably thinking. Gosh, wisdom teeth can do that too? They are already a common nightmare for every teenager. Do the wisdom teeth do anything good?
In this article, we’ll talk about TMJ Disorder and wisdom teeth. We’ll answer if impacted wisdom teeth cause TMJ, and we’ll discuss if TMJ disorder can be caused by wisdom teeth removal.
Can Impacted Wisdom Teeth Cause TMJ?
The short answer is: Yes, wisdom teeth can cause TMJ disorder. But the long answer is more complicated. Although wisdom teeth can cause TMJ, not all wisdom teeth cause it.
So next logical thought, you’re probably wondering, what does it depend on? It’s actually pretty simple. Poor positioning of the wisdom teeth is one of the many causes of TMJ disorder.
Two Ways How Impacted Wisdom Teeth Can Cause TMJ
The big picture is that the positioning of wisdom teeth is what causes problems. Wisdom teeth by themselves are not bad. The issue is that the wisdom teeth erupt last in the mouth. All the other teeth have already jockeyed for position, and by the time the wisdom teeth arrive, the room is often tight.
So, what does a wisdom tooth do when there isn’t enough room for it? It tries anyway… and it gets creative.
Instead of coming in straight, the wisdom teeth are forced to erupt at angles to try to make room. The result is that many wisdom teeth have positioning which is awkward compared to the rest of the teeth.
Hence, that’s the problem. The wisdom teeth are not only late to the party, but they are disruptive party goers.
Let’s talk about how the positioning actually causes TMJ pain.
The Wisdom Teeth Erupt Taller than the Rest
For a moment I want you to think of the lower jaw. From a biological perspective it’s a body part, but from a physics perspective, it’s a simple hinge and lever.
Physics? Bare with me.
The reason why this is important is because physics is a huge part of TMJ disorder. The lower jaw opens and closes around a fulcrum. From a physics perspective, the most leverage is achieved closer to the fulcrum. More leverage equals more force.
When you’re talking about the wisdom teeth, they are the farthest back in the mouth. They are closest to the fulcrum. Therefore, wisdom teeth generate significantly more force than the teeth further forward in the mouth.
So if a wisdom tooth erupts even slightly out of alignment and hits taller than the rest of the teeth, it creates a powerful, unbalanced tipping force when closing the jaw.
The result of a wisdom tooth hitting too hard is a significant strain on the hinge of the jaw and the muscles that power it. That equals a great deal of TMJ disorder symptoms.
The Wisdom Teeth Tip the Other Teeth Forward
The studies on whether wisdom teeth cause teeth crowding have been contradictory back and forth for decades. However, that may be misleading because it’s impossible for studies to control all variables effectively over the length of time that teeth erupt.
But for a moment, let’s put studies aside and look at wisdom teeth from a commonsense perspective.
The answer to can wisdom teeth push the other teeth forward is a simple matter. It comes down to space. Specifically— is there enough space in the mouth for them to erupt?
If there isn’t enough space and the wisdom tooth keeps erupting, guess what? The wisdom tooth is going to push the other teeth out of the way. Two teeth can’t share the same space.
So if the wisdom teeth push the other teeth forward, how does that cause TMJ?
The reason is because everything shifts forward which causes crowding in the front of the mouth. That’s important. If the front teeth are crowded, there is more pressure in the front of the mouth. Pressure in the front forces the jaw backward.
In other words, the front teeth are closing tighter, so the jaw compensates by closing at a position further back than before. That’s a huge problem.
Because the skull and ear are directly behind the jaw, if it closes even slightly further back, it puts a massive strain on those areas. A slight change in position backward causes symptoms such as muscle tension, ear fullness, headaches, and tinnitus.
Can TMJ Disorder be Caused by Wisdom Teeth Removal?
With all this said, you’re probably thinking it’s best to remove the wisdom teeth before they cause problems. And in most cases that usually true.
But what if you had your wisdom teeth out and are having jaw pain. You’re probably wondering, can TMJ be caused by wisdom teeth removal?
The answer is yes TMJ disorder can be caused by wisdom teeth removal, but usually only temporarily. After all, to remove the wisdom teeth there is a strain on the jaw and swelling which causes TMJ-like symptoms for a few weeks.
However, it’s extremely rare for a wisdom teeth extraction procedure to cause TMJ disorder permanently.
Many people note that their TMJ symptoms started around the same time when their wisdom teeth were taken out which may lead you to think it was from the procedure. However, in most cases, the timing is usually coincidental, and the condition can usually be corrected by treating other underlying causes.
Wisdom Teeth and TMJ: The Bottom Line
Wisdom teeth should be part of the evaluation when ruling out causes of TMJ disorder. Often, they are directly or indirectly related to the etiology of the symptoms.