Orthodontics and TMJ Disorders
by Dr. Scott Bolding | Oct. 5, 2021
Table of Contents
01. What is the Relationship Between Orthodontics and TMJ Disorders?
02. What is a Good Bite?
03. What is the Relationship Between Your Bite and Your Jaw Joint?
04. How Can Orthodontics Treat My TMJ Disorder?
The Relationship Between Orthodontics and TMJ Disorders
When it comes to treating TMJ pain you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Each patient’s jaw pain is unique and in order to help you find the relief you need the jaw joint needs to be considered from all angles. There are several different treatment options out there and figuring out the right one depends on a thorough diagnosis. Sometimes you have mild pain that can be relieved with pain medications, resting the jaw joint, and cold/heat therapy. Or you may need surgery in order to correct a displaced disc. You can also treat TMJ pain with orthodontics.
Orthodontic treatment for TMJ disorders helps correct a misaligned bite, which can cause damage to the jaw joint. Your jaws and teeth work together as a system. If one part of that system isn’t working properly it can affect everything else. Orthodontics can be used to correct issues and keep the system functioning properly. However, there may also be situations where the pain in the jaw joint is actually caused by previous orthodontic work. Either way, it’s important to understand the relationship between your TMJ and orthodontics.
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What is a “Good Bite?”
In order to see the relationship between orthodontics and TMJ disorders, we need to understand how orthodontics treat your bite.
The way your top and bottom teeth meet is referred to as your bite. It also involves the straightness of your teeth. Your bite is important for properly biting and chewing food. A misaligned bite is known as malocclusion. Most people don’t have a perfect bite, and most of the time any adjustments made to the bite are cosmetic. However, a severely misaligned bite can eventually lead to major problems, including jaw pain.
Malocclusion has several different causes. Many times children develop a misaligned bite due to habits they had when they were babies, including:
- Thumb sucking
- Using a pacifier for an extended period of time
- Bottle feeding
Orthodontic treatment, like braces, is the most effective way to fix a bad bite.
The Relationship Between Your Bite and Jaw Joint
The key to knowing if you need orthodontic treatment for TMJ lies in the relationship between your bite and your jaw joint.
Every part of your body works together as part of a system. And your mouth is no different. Your jaw joint, muscles, and teeth are all designed to function together. If one part of this system isn’t functioning properly, then the rest of the pieces have to pick up the slack. For example, if your teeth aren’t coming together properly your jaw has to work harder to bite and chew. This extra work puts a strain on the joint. And over time it will begin to break down.
Misalignment in your teeth can push everything out of its natural position, which can lead to clenching and teeth grinding. Clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth causes your joints to break down over time.
At the same time, problems with the jaw can affect the way your teeth fit in your mouth. If your jaw is too small for example, your teeth will be crowded together. If there is too much space, your teeth will sit too far apart. And in turn, your jaw will have to work harder in order to function and sit the way it was designed to.
This puts extra strain on your jaw joint. The extra strain leads to inflammation and pain. And this is where you can treat TMJ pain with orthodontics.
How Can Orthodontics Treat My TMJ Pain?
The first step in determining if orthodontics can treat your TMJ pain is for your dental team to figure out if malocclusion is part of the problem. A full, comprehensive diagnosis will need to be done in order to understand how your bite may be causing your jaw joint pain.
Once it has been determined that adjusting your bite can help treat your TMJ disorder, an orthodontist will outline a treatment plan. Each person’s bite is unique and therefore each treatment plan should be tailored to your specific situation. Usually, braces will be applied to your teeth to help straighten them.
In some cases, you may need a bite brace or a splint. A splint is ad device similar to a mouthguard that is prescribed by a dentist. Splints can help adjust the position of your jaw and take pressure off of your teeth and jaw joints. Some splints are worn at night to keep you from clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth. Other splints are designed to correct bite issues and should be worn all day.
Even though you can treat TMJ pain with orthodontics, you may need other treatments as well. Despite the relationship between your TMJ and orthodontics you will likely need to address the damage done to the joint itself. That’s why along with orthodontic treatment we will recommend other treatments in order to repair that damage. Orthodontics can treat TMJ disorders, but not on their own. The other treatments will depend on the extent of the samage done to the jaw joint.
Orthodontics and TMJ Pain
Yes It Can Help
TMJ disorders are often complicated. There can me nuerous causes to your TMJ pain. Because of this complexity, we don’t want to take a one-size-fits-all approach to diagnosing and traeting them.
That’s why it’s important to understand how you can treat TMJ pain with orthodontics. Orthodontic treatment can help correct a misaligned bite. In turn, this takes excess pressure off the jaw joint. Once we take pressure off the TMJ we can address any damage with other treatments.
When treating TMJ disorders it’s important to address every aspect of the joint. That’s why we want you to understand the relationship between orthodontics and TMJ disorders. But there is much more to learn about the TMJ. Take a look at our other resources to get a better understanding of your TMJ pain.