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Can Orthodontics Correct My TMJ?

Oct 01, 2023
Even if you don’t mind your crooked teeth or misaligned bite, if you have jaw pain, you may need orthodontics. Orthodontics — whether traditional braces or Invisalign® — realigns your teeth so your jaw functions efficiently. Will it work for you?

Somewhere between 5-12% of the women, men, and kids in the United States suffer from a disorder in one or both of their temporomandibular joints (TMJ). The TMJ is the joint that connects your jawbone to your skull. You have a TMJ on each side of your jaw.

A TMJ disorder, or TMD, is often erroneously referred to as TMJ. But, whatever you call it, TMD causes an array of symptoms that can make your life uncomfortable or even painful, such as:

  • Jaw pops or clicks
  • Stuck or frozen jaw
  • Jaw pain
  • Headache
  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Tinnitus (ear ringing)
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)
  • Numb or tingling fingers
  • Dizziness

At our clinic in San Antonio, Texas, Anthony Osei, DDS, PhD, is careful to diagnose your TMD and establish any underlying causes before recommending treatment. However, if misaligned teeth are behind your pain, you could benefit from orthodontics.

Why do you have TMD, and can orthodontics be the answer to your pain? Read on to find out. 

Are your teeth missing or in bad shape?

One cause of jaw pain may simply be teeth that have been damaged by trauma or poor oral hygiene. Or, you could be consciously or unconsciously grinding your teeth, particularly at night, a condition that’s called bruxism.

Damaged teeth can sometimes lead to misalignments in the jaw that cause TMJ pain. If you’re missing teeth and haven’t replaced them, you’re more at risk for TMD. Pain from TMD may also be due to an infection in your jawbone that may have started in your teeth or gums.

If damaged or missing teeth are behind your TMD pain, Dr. Osei recommends replacing and repairing missing or damaged teeth. After your mouth is healthy again, you may find that your TMJ pain is reduced or gone. 

Do you have arthritis?

Another common cause of TMD is lack of cartilage in the TMJs. If you have arthritis in other joints, it’s very possible that arthritis is at the root of your TMD.

That’s why taking X-rays and doing a complete study of your teeth and jaws is an essential part of diagnosis. If we determine that arthritis is the cause or a contributor to your pain, we may recommend joint injections to subdue inflammation and control pain.

Do you bite your nails or grind your teeth?

You may have developed TMD as a result of tensions and stress in your body that you expel through biting or chewing inappropriately. If you have a habit of biting or chewing non-food items, such as pencils, fingernails, or ice, you may need to break your habits.

You could benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches you more effective ways to manage stress and anxiety. Biofeedback can also help you break bad habits.

If you suffer from bruxism, we may custom fit you with a nightguard. This simple device prevents you from grinding your teeth while you sleep, protecting the cutting surfaces of your teeth and preventing undue stress on your TMJs. If you grind your teeth during the day, then CBT, biofeedback, and medications may help.

Do you have a malocclusion?

Even if you think your teeth are straight, you may have a misalignment in your teeth that’s putting excess stress on your TMJs. 

Examples of malocclusions include:

  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Open bite
  • Cross bite
  • Crooked teeth
  • Gapped teeth

A malocclusion is corrected by orthodontics, such as traditional braces or Invisalign®. The most visible benefit is straighter teeth and a healthier smile. However, if your TMD is caused by misaligned teeth, you could also experience pain relief.

The American Dental Association cautions that orthodontics shouldn't be the first approach to TMJ pain. That’s why we make sure to evaluate the causes of your pain first, and then investigate lifestyle changes — such as stress relief — before considering orthodontics to correct your malocclusion and alleviate stress on your jaw.

Do you have pain in your jaw, or pain that radiates to your face, neck, and shoulders? Or, does your jaw click or pop? Find out what’s behind your TMJ pain and get the treatment you need — including orthodontics — by contacting us by phone or through our online form today.