Do Braces Help Treat TMD?
Do you have painful jaw joints, popping and cracking sounds coming from your jaw, jaw stiffness, facial pain, and or headaches? These are some of the common symptoms of temporomandibular disorder (TMD). So check in with your dentist if this sounds like you.
The joint that helps comprise your jaw is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and when the area just in front of the ears is strained, TMD is one of the possible results. (FYI: TMJ disorders are a type of TMD disorder). For some people, braces are a great solution to reducing strain on the jaw joints and alleviating symptoms. As you read on, we'll look into the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), how braces can help treat the discomfort, and other TMD treatments.
The Temporomandibular Joint
The TMJ is a complex joint that's connected to many facial muscles and nerves. It acts like a sliding hinge and connects your jawbone to your skull. As you can see, it's imperative. So what causes this joint to cause pain or discomfort and present as TMD? For many people with TMJ, the cause is unknown. Other causes are not well proven but include:
- Misalignment between the upper and lower teeth
- Orthodontic braces
- Tooth grinding
- Poor posture
- Poor diet and lack of sleep
Other possible causes of TMJ-related symptoms include fractures, dislocations, arthritis, and chronic structural problems.
Braces to Treat the TMD
Braces are one of a range of TMD treatments that can improve the jaw's function and alignment. So they're something to certainly consider if you're having TMJ troubles.
How do braces help treat TMD? Great question! Braces gradually adjust the position of the teeth so that they fix the misaligned bite. When the teeth meet correctly, the jaw joint is usually no longer under any strain, easing any symptoms.
The truth is that more studies are needed on the effectiveness and safety of most treatments for jaw joint and muscle disorders. That's why experts strongly recommend using the most conservative, reversible treatments possible when working on TMD. This includes:
- Over-the-counter pain medicines. Or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Like ibuprofen.
- An oral appliance (aka a stabilization splint or bite guard) is a plastic guard that fits over the upper or lower teeth.
- Botox injections
- Reducing stress and eating soft foods. Your dentist may recommend lifestyle and diet changes to help you.
If you don't see an improvement in your TMD symptoms after dietary adjustments, medication, and lifestyle changes, your dentist may suggest a more permanent treatment like repositioning splints, braces, or surgery.
As you can see, there are many options for treating your TMD. Your dentist will usually resort to reversible treatments like taking over-the-counter medicine, an appliance, or stress techniques first when helping you heal your jaw. On the other hand, braces could be the best treatment for you if some other, more gentle approaches don't work. Your dentist will advise you on whether or not braces are suitable to treat your TMD. So, check-in with them as soon as possible to either start or continue your TMD healing process. You deserve it.