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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Alfi

The Interplay Between Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) and Airway: Exploring Custom Jaw Surgery

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

The airway serves as a crucial connection between the lower jaw and the skull, facilitating essential functions such as chewing, speaking, and even the Temporomandibular Joint. Recent research has shed light on the intricate relationship between TMJ dysfunction and compromised airway health. Let's explore the connection between TMJ and the airway, emphasizing the potential benefits of custom orthognathic surgery in alleviating these issues.

TMJ and Airway: The Linkage:

  1. Anatomy and Physiology: The temporomandibular joint, located in front of the ear, plays a pivotal role in maintaining optimal jaw movement. Its intricate structure encompasses bones, muscles, ligaments, and a small cartilage disc. Concurrently, the airway is a complex pathway that facilitates the passage of air into the lungs. Both systems are anatomically connected and influenced by their functional interdependence.

  2. Occlusion and Airway Space: The relationship between occlusion (the alignment of teeth) and airway space has garnered significant attention. Malocclusion, a misalignment of teeth and jaws, may lead to diminished airway dimensions due to posterior displacement of the mandible. This displacement can reduce the pharyngeal airway space and contribute to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or other breathing disorders.

  3. Muscular Interaction: TMJ dysfunction can result in muscle imbalances and abnormal neuromuscular activity. These issues can impact the muscles involved in airway control, such as the genioglossus and hyoid muscles. As a consequence, compromised TMJ function may lead to suboptimal tongue position, reduced muscle tone, and subsequent airway collapse during sleep or even in the awake state.

  4. Inflammation and Pain: TMJ disorders often manifest with pain, inflammation, and restricted jaw movement. Studies have shown that chronic inflammation in the TMJ region can elicit a neurogenic response, affecting airway reflexes and resulting in airway narrowing or hyperresponsiveness. This connection highlights the potential impact of TMJ dysfunction on respiratory health.

Custom Orthognathic Surgery: A Solution! Orthognathic surgery, a specialized surgical intervention for correcting facial skeletal abnormalities, offers promising outcomes in addressing both TMJ dysfunction and compromised airway health. Customized treatment plans, tailored to each patient's unique needs, can be devised by skilled maxillofacial surgeons to target the following aspects:

  1. Occlusal Correction: Custom orthognathic surgery involves repositioning the jaws to achieve an optimal bite and occlusion. By correcting malocclusion, the procedure can indirectly expand the airway space, mitigating the risk of airway compromise and associated breathing difficulties.

  2. TMJ Stabilization: Orthognathic surgery may include procedures aimed at stabilizing the TMJ, such as condylar repositioning or disc repositioning. These interventions aim to restore normal joint function, alleviate pain, and reduce inflammation, consequently improving the airway-related symptoms associated with TMJ dysfunction.

  3. Airway Enhancement: In cases where TMJ dysfunction significantly impacts the airway, AOS orthognathic surgery can be customized to address both concerns simultaneously. Procedures such as maxillomandibular advancement can not only correct skeletal discrepancies but also enlarge the pharyngeal airway space, leading to improved respiratory function.

The intricate relationship between TMJ dysfunction and compromised airway health underscores the importance of comprehensive evaluation and treatment. By addressing the airway and giving the tongue more room, double jaw surgery can alleviate pressure on the joints. Also, when the occlusion is set properly, there is equal disbursement of force among the teeth. Custom orthognathic surgery by Alfi Oral Surgery offers a promising solution for individuals with both TMJ disorders and airway-related concerns.

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