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Can Braces Fix TMJ Disorder?

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A young woman with braces and long brown hair smiling while sitting in a dental chair

Your dentist can identify the reasons for discomfort or pain related to your teeth and gums with a dental exam. But sometimes, you can also experience these symptoms around the jaw, such as pain in the jaw when eating, speaking, or yawning. 

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder can cause mild or severe pain in the area around your jaw. Treatment for TMJ disorder can include lifestyle changes, self-care, and surgery for severe cases. Among these options is an unlikely treatment solution that can improve symptoms associated with TMJ disorder: braces. Braces can help align your bite to reduce strain on the jaw joints. 

What Is TMJ Disorder?

Before exploring the role of braces, it is imperative to grasp the intricacies of TMJ disorder (TMD). The term TMJ refers to the joint itself, while TMD is used to refer to disorders of the joint that cause pain. 

Your TMJ is the joint that connects your jawbone to your skull, particularly the mandible or lower jaw and the temporal bone on the side of the skull. The TMJ acts like a sliding hinge, allowing you to open and close your mouth, chew, speak, and perform other essential functions. 

The exact causes of TMD can be diverse, including factors like:

  • Physical injury
  • Arthritis
  • Grinding or clenching teeth during sleep
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Dental surgery
  • Infections
  • Improperly fitted dentures
  • Jaw misalignment
  • Genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors

TMD can manifest in various ways and may cause symptoms such as the following:

  • Jaw pain
  • Clicking, popping, or grinding sounds when you open or close your mouth
  • Headaches
  • Neck and back aches
  • Earaches
  • Buzzing, ringing, or numbness in the ears
  • Difficulty chewing 
  • Limited jaw movement
  • Severe discomfort

Treatment for TMD

Treatment for TMD varies depending on the severity and underlying cause. It can range from self-care practices and lifestyle adjustments to more advanced interventions, including surgery or orthodontic treatments like braces to address issues related to jaw misalignment.

Lifestyle Changes & Self-Care Practices

These lifestyle changes can help with mild to moderate symptoms of TMD: 

  • Avoid chewing gum
  • Eat only soft foods
  • Avoid clenching or tensing the jaw
  • Do gentle jaw stretching exercises

Treatment for TMD caused by pre-existing conditions can include:

  • Mouth guards for teeth grinding and clenching at night
  • Steroid injections into the joint for osteoarthritis
  • Over-the-counter pain medications to reduce pain and discomfort

Surgery

In extreme cases of TMD, surgery may be beneficial to reduce pain and restricted movement of the jaw caused by damage to the joint, the muscles surrounding the jaw, or another condition. 

The Role of Braces in TMJ Disorders

Traditionally associated with straightening teeth, braces have demonstrated efficacy beyond cosmetic improvements. In TMD, braces can address underlying issues that may contribute to the symptoms. Here is how:

  • Alignment correction: Misalignment of the jaw is a common factor in TMD. Braces can gradually shift the teeth and jaw into proper alignment, reducing strain on the TMJ. 
  • Bite correction: An improper bite, such as an overbite or underbite, can exacerbate TMJ pain. Braces work to correct these bite issues by applying gentle pressure on the teeth, guiding them into a more harmonious position. 

Braces as a treatment for TMD involve a comprehensive and personalized approach. The journey typically begins with a thorough dental exam

X-rays, scans, and bite assessments can help your dentist understand the specific issues contributing to your TMJ symptoms, after which you will receive a customized plan. Regular follow-up appointments are crucial during the treatment process to monitor progress, make necessary adjustments, and check in to see if the braces are working.

Potential Benefits of Braces for TMD

While you may need other treatments along with braces to improve TMD, they can provide the following benefits:

  • Pain reduction: By addressing the root causes of TMD, such as jaw misalignment, braces can reduce pain and discomfort. 
  • Improved jaw function: Proper alignment and bite correction can improve jaw function so individuals can find it easier to chew, speak, and perform daily activities without TMD symptoms.
  • Prevention of further damage: Besides providing relief from existing TMD symptoms, braces can also help prevent further damage. By aligning the teeth and optimizing the bite, braces can contribute to long-term oral health.
A young woman with braces and long brown hair smiling while sitting in a dental chair

TMJ Disorder Relief with Braces

If you experience pain from TMD, braces may be an option to help alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Braces work by correcting the alignment of your teeth and jaws, which can help alleviate tension, strain, and pain in your jaw. 

While individual experiences may vary, the potential benefits of braces for TMD can provide relief for those living with this condition. Book an appointment with Kensington Dental Care to have your mouth and jaw evaluated and to discuss your options.

Written by Dr. Geoff Van Blaricom

Dr. Geoff Van Blaricom has been practicing Dentistry for over 30 years. He is a member of the Canadian Dental Association, Alberta Dental Association and College as well as the American Dental Association.

More Articles By Dr. Geoff Van Blaricom

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