Preventing TMJ and Jaw Problems in Kids

by Janet Stoess-Allen DMD 

Many children, starting at the age of seven, visit an orthodontist with expectations of achieving a beautiful smile. Recent orthodontic studies indicate that improper occlusal equilibrium at a young age can lead to significant joint and muscular problems associated with one of today’s fastest growing problems, Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD).

Symptoms of TMD include but are not limited to:

  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain and fatigue
  • Clenching or grinding teeth
  • Clicking or popping of the jaw
  • Neck, back and facial pain
  • Tinnitus and earaches

Other areas associated with malocclusion and improper jaw alignment may often result in sleeping and breathing disorders. These combined problems often lead to an inability to focus in school as well as reduced performance associated with high energy activities for today’s youth.

The good news is that current orthodontic treatment programs, coupled with today’s technology, can identify early stage detection of individual markers for impending problems and provide preventative treatment.

To properly diagnose and develop an individual treatment plan, orthodontic exams should include:

  • Panoramic and cephalometric x-rays
  • Facial and dental photographs
  • Impressions of the teeth
  • A complete medical and dental history
  • Identity of TMJ related symptoms

Potential orthodontic and TMJ related problems can often be detected early in life, and preventative measures can be taken to avoid later dysfunctions due to malocclusion or jaw asymmetry. Because the symptoms of pain do not usually present until the teen or even adult years of life, it is often advisable to take the appropriate TMJ tomographic x-rays or CT scans of the jaw when presented with early classic symptoms.

To minimize the risk of potential occlusal problem and discomfort for your child, it is advisable to seek an early orthodontic consultation. The benefit can be a positive life altering experience while at the same time finishing with a beautiful healthy smile.

Janet Stoess-Allen DMD graduated from the University of Kentucky with an honors Bachelor of Science degree in Dental Hygiene. She practiced Dental Hygiene for 5 years and then attended University of Louisville Dental School. She went on to specialize in a 2 year orthodontic residency program at New York University.

Dr. Stoess-Allen is currently a member of the American Association of Orthodontics, the Northeast Society of Orthodontics, the American Dental Association, the New York Dental Society, the Women's Academy of Dentistry and ICCMO. In addition, she devotes time and energy to advance and offer orthodontic evaluations and treatment to various philanthropic organizations including the Little Baby Face Foundation, which treats children from around the world who present with facial and dental malformations.

For the past several years, Dr. Stoess-Allen has devoted significant educational and clinical time to the understanding and treatment of neuromuscular disorders, helping patients alleviate pain and discomfort in the temporomandibular joint, head and neck. She uses the premise of neuromuscular positioning, placing the teeth in the most harmonious and symmetrical relationship to the surrounding muscle and bone, when treating all of her patients - children and adults.

Dr. Stoess-Allen and her husband live in Manhattan and are the proud parents of their 11 year old son.

You can reach Dr. Stoess-Allen's practice by calling 212-452-2777 or visiting Her office is located at 935 Park Avenue, New York.

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