Why is cartilage important for my bite?

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Cartilage sits quietly between your skull and the condylar head of your lower jaw (the mandible) which is held stably in place by ligaments, in perfect health. The cartilage serves to protect your lower mandible from rubbing bone on bone with your bony skull, a cushion of sorts. It has a thickness that deflects your mandible slightly downwards in perfect health. When the cartilage is knocked out of place, that thickness between skull and mandible will typically decrease. Since your lower teeth are connected to the mandible, they hit your upper teeth sooner in this scenario (on that side with the decreased thickness). Hence, the back teeth of the side where damaged cartilage is present hit sooner than before (and engage longer as you chew sideways, in time, inciting muscular hyperactivity), and this will often separate your front teeth slightly on the opposite side. If both TMJ’s have the cartilage knocked out of place, that can lead to decreased separation of the mandibular condylar bony head from the skull socket on both sides, leading to the back teeth hitting too hard on both sides, and the anterior/front teeth separating on both sides. Cartilage tears can happen from a bite being too “high” for too long, and can also happen from physical traumas such as a blow to the chin, which may transfer enough force through the mandible and up to the TMJ’s and “pop” the cartilage down and forwards. Cartilage is almost always torn forwards due to the anatomy of the TMJ. Bottom line, the cartilage condition, position, and degree of displacement can readily lead to a change in your bite/occlusion.

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