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Can TMJ Change My Face Shape?

June 10th, 2024 | 3 min read

By NYC Smile Design

Person with treated TMJ

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders are more than just a source of jaw pain—they can impact overall health and even alter facial aesthetics. At NYC Smile Design, we've seen firsthand how TMJ disorders can transform aspects of patients' facial structures. 

This blog aims to deepen your understanding of the relationship between TMJ disorders and changes in face shape, providing crucial insights and guidance based on our extensive experience in treating these conditions. We'll explore how TMJ might influence your face shape and offer essential advice for managing these changes effectively.

What Are TMJ Disorders?

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) serves as a critical hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull, enabling you to perform essential functions such as chewing, speaking, and yawning. TMJ disorders represent a category of conditions that affect the joint's smooth operation, often causing discomfort and dysfunction. These disorders may develop from various issues, including arthritis, direct trauma to the jaw, or long-term habits like excessive teeth grinding (bruxism) and clenching.

People suffering from TMJ disorders typically experience a range of symptoms that can disrupt their daily lives. Common signs include headaches, persistent pain around the jaw area, sore facial muscles, difficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite, as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly, and noises like clicking or popping sounds when moving the jaw. Some may also experience a locked jaw or limited movement in more severe cases. Some patients experience a loss of midface height, the collapsed look makes them look older. Given these challenges, understanding TMJ disorders is crucial for timely and effective management, helping to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.

TMJ Diagram

How TMJ Can Affect Face Shape

TMJ disorders can profoundly impact facial aesthetics due to their influence on jaw alignment and muscle function. Over time, these issues may lead to visible changes in how the jawline appears, potentially causing asymmetry and affecting the overall harmony of facial features. The mechanics of TMJ involve both the bones and muscles of the jaw, which, when dysfunctional, can alter the position of the jaw and the size and shape of facial muscles which consequently change the face's shape. This section explores the anatomical relationships affected by TMJ and how they might lead to noticeable alterations in one's appearance.

Recognizing Signs of TMJ-Related Facial Changes

If TMJ is affecting your face shape, you might notice several visible signs. One common indicator is an uneven jaw alignment, which can make the face look lopsided or off-balance, or longer on one side. Additionally, inflammatory facial swelling on one or both sides of the jaw can occur, which further distorts the symmetry of the face. Clenching of the teeth can cause an increase in the volume or hypertrophy of facial muscles- giving a squared-off facial appearance. Some patients describe the hypertrophy as weight they can’t seem to lose in their face, despite dieting. Clenching also changes the position of teeth and the amount of facial support they provide. Clenching squeezes the teeth into the jawbones resulting in the midface losing height when the teeth come together. The facial measurement called vertical dimension is now decreased, and patients appear older and almost like they are missing their teeth. Over time, these conditions may worsen, leading to a permanently altered appearance if not properly managed. Such changes often prompt those affected to seek medical advice, highlighting the importance of recognizing and responding to these signs early.

A person with jaw pain

Managing TMJ and Its Aesthetic Impacts

Managing TMJ effectively is crucial to prevent or minimize its impact on facial aesthetics. Medical interventions, such as using anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants, can provide immediate symptom relief. Additionally, adopting home-based practices like performing targeted jaw exercises and employing stress reduction techniques can address the underlying triggers of TMJ. Early intervention is key to maintaining both the functional and aesthetic integrity of the jaw and face. For those experiencing TMJ symptoms, incorporating these strategies into daily routines can help mitigate the adverse effects on facial structure and ensure ongoing health and appearance of the jaw and face.

Professional Assessment and Treatment

Consulting with dental or medical professionals is essential for individuals experiencing signs of TMJ. A professional assessment ensures an accurate diagnosis, which is critical for effective treatment. Dentists and medical experts can customize treatment plans based on the specific needs and severity of the disorder in each patient. Available treatments may include physical therapy, which helps strengthen the jaw muscles and improve mobility, or custom orthotics, which aid in proper jaw alignment. Botox is used therapeutically to target hypertrophied and overactive clenching jaw muscles. It is effective in correcting not only the appearance of your face by reducing the size of these muscles but also in controlling parafunction which leads to hypertrophy of the jaw muscles. In more severe cases, surgical interventions may be considered to correct structural issues within the jaw itself. These treatments not only aim to restore normal jaw function but also prevent long-term aesthetic changes to the face, ensuring that the impact on the patient's appearance and health is minimized.

TMJ Botox Treatment

Finding A Solution To Your TMJ

TMJ disorders can significantly impact not only your health but also the symmetry and aesthetics of your face. Understanding the signs and seeking timely treatment are vital steps in managing the condition effectively.

If you're noticing changes in your face shape or experiencing other symptoms of TMJ, don't wait. Schedule a consultation with your dentist or a TMJ specialist. For expert care and personalized treatment options, consider reaching out to NYC Smile Design, where we specialize in diagnosing and managing TMJ disorders, ensuring your smile and facial aesthetics are preserved.