The Role of Orthodontics in Treating TMJ Disorders and Jaw Pain

Do you have headaches or pain in your jaw? Facial pain? How about instances when your jaw seems to lock and you can’t open your mouth wide?

These symptoms are concerning and they may have started with no warning. But what exactly is wrong? 

One thing you should look into, in addition to scheduling a visit with your general physician, is a disorder of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Find an orthodontist with experience in orthodontics for TMJ disorders, even though you may not understand the connection at first between a specialist who straightens teeth and your jaw pain.

In this article, we’ll explore the world of TMJ/TMD disorders and the common symptoms of these disorders, and look at how effective orthodontic treatment for TMD can be.

What are TMJ Disorders and Their Symptoms?

The temporomandibular joint is where the jawbone and the skull connect. This joint makes it possible for us to chew, speak, and yawn, which means it is used a lot! 

When the joint is compromised in some way, it can lead to pain in the jaw, headaches, clicking or popping when the mouth is opened, teeth grinding (also called bruxism), and difficulty in opening and closing the mouth. The reason for problems with the joint isn’t clear, aside from related factors like arthritis or misalignment of the teeth or jaw. 

TMD symptoms vary and can include:

  • Jaw pain.
  • Facial pain.
  • Shoulder or neck pain.
  • Stiffness in your jaw.
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth.
  • Jaw popping or clicking.
  • Headaches.
  • Migraines.
  • Earaches.
  • Toothache.
  • Tinnitus (ringing in your ears).
  • Malocclusion (a change in the way your teeth fit together). 

Disorders of this joint are common; in fact, according to a study by the NIH, 10 million Americans suffer from them and that represents between 5% and 12% of the general adult population. More women than men suffer from TMD and it often develops between the ages of 20 and 40. These disorders often worsen and can cause the capsule that holds the joint to erode over time.

There is no definitive cause identified for TMD other than daily wear and tear on the joint or an injury to the jaw. Some studies point to stress as a possible cause, too.

If you suffer from any of these symptoms, you want to find out the cause. But even more than the cause, you probably want to know how to fix it! Read on!

The Effectiveness of Orthodontics For TMD

There is a wide range of solutions for those suffering from TMD, from taking pain medication to surgery. So, where do orthodontists fall on this spectrum of resolutions for disorders of the jaw?

Orthodontists focus on irregularities in the teeth and jaws, so dealing with TMD is a logical part of their practice. They offer alternative remedies for the disorder that target the causes of jaw issues, rather than simply masking the symptoms.

Orthodontic treatment offers correction of misaligned teeth and jaws. The orthodontist can work to realign the jaw, improve the bite alignment, and address teeth grinding in the patient. Though it does take time and commitment, the result is a reduction of the strain on your TMJ and thus, less pain and a jaw that works better.  

Here are the orthodontic treatments for TMD:

Braces 

Braces are an often-used solution to TMD. The orthodontist will manipulate the braces during the treatment plan to properly realign the teeth and jaw and help relieve symptoms of TMD.

Invisalign Clear Aligners

Clear aligners fit over your teeth like a mouthguard and are useful for correcting minor misalignment of the jaw. Many patients prefer aligners since they are less noticeable than braces and are removable for meals.

Bite Adjustments

If a patient has a misaligned bite, a targeted bite adjustment can be helpful. The orthodontist might shave down the high spot on a tooth or add a layer to a tooth to correct the alignment.

Night Guards and Splints

A night guard or splint is much like a mouthguard. The purpose is to minimize the stress on the joint while you sleep and is helpful for those who grind or clench their teeth at night. 

Surgical Treatment Options

If the treatments listed above don’t provide relief, orthodontic surgery may be suggested. It is generally viewed as the last option but is effective in treating severe jaw misalignments.

A Combination and Collaborative Approach

Your orthodontist can combine any of the treatments listed above to treat TMD. It’s a customized approach to provide relief from jaw pain or other symptoms of this disorder.

They may also wish to collaborate with other dental specialists, like oral and maxillofacial surgeons. This approach maximizes the care and outcome that go into the patient’s care.

No matter what solution an orthodontist uses, it’s important to remember that it’s a process that takes time and effort. The results, however, can be life-changing. 

TMD and Orthodontics: An Obvious Match!

TMD is a broad term that is used to describe the pain and dysfunction that can happen when something has gone wrong with the muscles and joints of the jaw. The disorder can be debilitating, with excruciating pain in the face, jaw, or ear. 

It is a disorder with no definitive cause, but it is often the result of stress, overuse, or injury to the face or jaw. Even something that is slightly out of alignment can lead to symptoms that range from mild to acute, including pain, swelling, or problems chewing.

Orthodontists are dental specialists who focus on jaw and tooth misalignment, so they can often provide relief through the use of braces, aligners, night guards, and others.

Here at White Plains Orthodontics, we offer comprehensive orthodontic treatment plans tailored to your unique needs, including for disorders of the jaw joint. Our team is experienced in utilizing effective orthodontic treatment for TMD to help relieve pain. We have the skills and necessary orthodontic tools to tackle your TMJ problems.

Schedule an appointment today and let us help give you a happier, healthier, and pain-free life.