Can Braces Fix TMJ Problems? Everything You Need to Know

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) is a common yet misunderstood condition affecting the jaw’s movement and can cause significant discomfort. Many sufferers seek effective treatment to alleviate the pain and improve their quality of life. One question frequently arises — can braces fix TMJ problems?

In this blog, we delve into the relationship between orthodontic solutions and TMJ disorders, exploring how braces might help manage and potentially resolve these issues.

What is TMJ Disorder?

The TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is a joint that connects the jawbone to the skull on each side of the jaw. It allows you to move your jaw up and down and side to side, acting like a hinge, enabling you to talk, chew, and yawn.

When we talk about TMJ disorders or TMD, these issues are related to TMJ. TMD causes pain in the muscles that move your jaw and your jaw joint. While many people may refer to this pain as TMJ, that’s not correct. While TMJ is the actual joint, TMD, or temporomandibular joint dysfunction/disorder, is the condition that causes TMJ to give you jaw pain, difficulty in opening and closing your mouth, and headaches.

Generally, the pain and discomfort from TMJ disorders are temporary and can be treated through self-care or non-surgical treatments. Surgery is usually considered only after conservative methods have not succeeded, although certain individuals with TMJ disorders might find surgical options beneficial.

What are the Symptoms of TMJ Disorders?

The symptoms of TMJ disorders vary depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. The most prevalent symptom is pain in the jaw and its surrounding muscles.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

Other common symptoms include:

These symptoms can affect one or both sides of the face.

What are the Causes of TMJ Disorders?

The exact cause of TMJ disorders is still unknown, but it can be said that trauma to the joint or the jaw can be a significant reason. Apart from this, other medical conditions may play a part in developing TMJ disorders. They include:

  • Erosion of your joints
  • Arthritis
  • Teeth clenching or grinding
  • Growth dysfunctions
  • Structural abnormalities of the jaw by birth

Apart from these causes of TMJ disorders, a list of factors plays an essential role in its development. But they aren’t yet proven, this is just a speculation. Below is the list of risk factors:

  • Estrogen (female hormones)
  • Stress for a prolonged period
  • A bad posture may strain your face and neck muscles
  • Joint hypermobility

Can Braces Fix TMJ Pain?

There isn’t a simple answer to this question. In certain situations, braces can be beneficial as they address bite problems such as overbites or underbites, which may play a role in TMJ disorder. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that braces are not a universal remedy for TMJ issues.

But, when it comes to fixing TMJ pain, braces might help you out in the following manner:

  • Addressing Misalignment: Braces can correct dental misalignments, such as malocclusion or improper bites, which may contribute to TMJ symptoms.
  • Enhancing Jaw Alignment: Proper jaw alignment can relieve stress on the TMJ, potentially easing TMJ-related discomfort.
  • Optimizing Bite: Braces ensure that the upper and lower teeth align properly, reducing jaw joint stress and thereby mitigating TMJ symptoms.
  • Comprehensive Orthodontic Support: In certain cases, TMJ issues may occur alongside other orthodontic problems. Braces can simultaneously address these issues, offering a holistic treatment approach.

Are There Other Options to Treat TMJ Pain?

Dealing with TMD is painful, uncomfortable, and even lowers your quality of life. However, the good news is that you can treat it. Here’s how:

  1. Home Remedies: The initial approach to easing TMJ pain involves homecare measures. Give your jaw ample rest, consume soft foods, avoid large bites, and refrain from chewing gum. If you experience sharp pain, apply a cold compress to minimize discomfort and swelling, placing it on your jaw for 20 minutes at a time with 20-minute breaks in between until the pain lessens.
    For a constant, dull ache, use a warm compress instead, following the same 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off routine until the ache diminishes. Over-the-counter pain relievers, like those used for headaches, can also be taken as needed.
    Once your pain is under control, you can start gentle TMJ exercises and stretches to strengthen your chewing muscles and enhance joint mobility. Perform these exercises cautiously and discontinue if you feel any discomfort.
  2. Physiotherapy: Physiotherapy may also help relieve TMJ pain. This includes using cold or hot therapy, TMJ exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles and joints, and ultrasound.
  3. Stress Reduction: Stress can trigger or exacerbate TMD. To manage this, try incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine, such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation. Additionally, consider consulting a therapist or exploring biofeedback options.
  4. Prescribed Medicines: If your TMD is severe, your doctor may recommend medication to assist. Potential options could be anti-inflammatory drugs, specific antidepressants, or muscle relaxants.
  5. TMJ Appliance: If your TMD stems from bruxism, a nightguard could be beneficial. This device protects the joints by cushioning them from grinding forces. Another alternative is a TMJ splint, which keeps the jaw joints in a position that alleviates pressure and supports healing.
  6. Orthodontic Devices: As mentioned earlier, orthodontic devices like braces or Invisalign may not be able to cure TMJ problems straightforwardly, but they can help correct open bites or crossbites. These dental conditions can put further pressure on your TMJ, contributing to pain. Orthodontic devices can help align your jaw and teeth and, to an extent, curb TMJ pain.
  7. Injections: Corticosteroid injections into the joint can help reduce pain and inflammation. If the muscle’s inability to contract is causing your TMD dysfunction, these injections might provide temporary relief.

Need a Solution for Your TMJ Pain?

While braces may indirectly help treat TMJ pain, it’s crucial to know that other treatment options might also work. We hope this article was helpful to you.

If you are experiencing TMJ problems, the orthodontal professionals at Brite Orthodontics can guide you. Contact us today!

Dr. Satish Pai, M.D.S

Dr. Satish Pai is an orthodontist and Ivy League trained dentist who has served as a faculty at Columbia University. He believes a perfect smile not only makes a person look great but feel great. As the founder of Putnam Orthodontics and a Partner at Brite Orthodontics, he is dedicated to providing the best orthodontic treatments to his patients. He also writes to educate people about everything orthodontics and the importance of correctly aligned teeth along with good oral health. In his free time, you can find him golfing, doing yoga or surfing, and spending time with his family.

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