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A Reason To Be Down In The Mouth: Oral Development and TMJ Problems

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

It makes me sad that there isn’t a lot of discussion around how some of the feeding and soothing practices we use for babies impact their jaw development. It can be an important piece to understanding TMJ issues. I'm Tracey, one of the mavens here at Histamine Haven. Here’s my story.

My jaw issues started with my early birth. I was a premature baby. My mom was given an injection so her milk wouldn’t come in and sent home. I stayed at the hospital and was fed through a nasogastric tube. It involved the insertion of a tube going from my nose into my stomach for feeding. I stayed in the hospital until I could suck on a bottle nipple.

It turns out that sucking on a bottle nipple isn’t the same as sucking on mom’s nipple. It can alter the sucking pattern and uses a different tongue action. That difference can then change the way the oral and nasal cavities, along with how the jaw and upper airway develop.

It should really come as no surprise that my jaw and airway didn’t develop normally.

But no one noticed. You see, my teeth looked beautiful, and they appeared to fit together normally, but they did this at a cost to my jaw. In order for my teeth to meet normally, my jaw was misaligned.

If my jaw had actually ever been in the correct position as it is right now, I would have had malocclusion -- irregular contact of opposing teeth in the upper and lower jaws. I would have had an overbite, and my upper and lower jaws wouldn’t have lined up – I wouldn’t have been able to chew.

This is where I’m at right now – my jaw is finally in the right position but my teeth don’t match up and I have very little contact between my upper and lower teeth. Chewing is a challenge.

But the sensitive nervous system in my mouth wanted my teeth to match, and of course it was much more functional to have my teeth match – it meant I could chew.

I was clenching my teeth at night due to some airway dysfunction. It wouldn’t become apparent until my teens, but that clenching forced my teeth into alignment and as a result, my jaw was pulled out of alignment. In my teens, the early signs were there, but I’m not sure dentists clearly understood them back then. This would have been the mid 80s.

My jaw joint started to click when I opened and closed my mouth, and I developed abfractions on my teeth. These are wedge shaped losses of teeth near the gumline.

The combination of the clenching, along with my jaw being misaligned created a powerful torque that put so much strain on my upper left and lower right teeth that enamel was forced off. Sections of my teeth were breaking away.

I went into my first mouth guard or appliance (or splint) that I wore at night in grade 10. I was 15.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Were you bottle fed? Did you use a pacifier? Or maybe you sucked your thumb? Maybe forceps were used during your birth? All of these things could potentially have changed the development of your jaw.


All month long, Tracey will be sharing her journey as she is in line to undergo jaw surgery in an attempt to reduce the strain on her mast cells, contributing to her diagnosis of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

You can follow Tracey’s journey here on the blog, as well as on Instagram and Facebook where she'll be posting regular check-ins and updates along the way.

Want to learn more about histamine and mast cell issues, and how it can play in to your symptoms you experience on a daily basis? Join our online community by clicking here. Loads of printable resources, a Master Class on the Histamine Connection. It's free to join!

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