How you can improve your patients’ quality of life by treating their TMJ problems with orthodontics.
If your patients report they have chronic pain in their jaw or suffer from discomfort when chewing and speaking, they are not alone. This type of pain in the jaw is a common condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD). In fact, millions of Americans suffer from TMJ symptoms, but there is a simple solution to help alleviate this debilitating condition. Orthodontics can alleviate pain in some patients and can drastically improve their quality of life.
What is TMJ?
TMJ occurs when there is a muscle- or joint-related discrepancy. It is a condition that causes stress in the jaw joint and muscles that allow the jaw to properly move. The joint connects our skull in front of our ears to our lower jaw, and when there is inflammation surrounding the joint, it impacts our ability to comfortably talk, chew, or even laugh. The joint has two traditional motions, a rotation and a hinge action that allows us to open and close our mouths and glide our jaws.
What causes TMJ?
TMJ is a painful condition that affects the normal health and function of the jaw joint. Each person’s symptoms stem from a different cause, whether it is from trauma, stress, a malocclusion, or arthritis. Thus, treatment options all differ depending on the origin of a person’s TMJ symptoms.
The most common causes of TMJ include:
- Gum chewing.
- Chronic grinding and clenching (sleep-related disorders).
- Misalignment of teeth.
- Trauma from sports or an accident.
- Poor posture.
Orthodontic Treatment for TMJ
Orthodontics has many benefits for patients aside from simply creating a beautiful smile. A general dentist practicing orthodontics can help patients find pain relief by offering treatment that helps properly align the bite. For some patients, orthodontics is a life saver if they are suffering on a daily basis from this terrible disorder.
There are numerous at-home remedies and exercises a patient can do to help reduce TMJ symptoms, but this can typically be a short-term plan for patients with TMJ disorder. This is because the condition can become a chronic degenerative disease that causes significant pain and dysfunction without any proper intervention.
Fortunately, dentists can acquire the necessary skills to assist patients with treatments like braces by taking a continuing education course like the Basic Straight Wire Orthodontics with The American Orthodontic Society. Braces are one of the most effective treatments for TMJ disorder because they straighten the teeth, and also ensure the bite is correctly aligned.
Some other orthodontic options to relieve TMJ symptoms include a custom splint or a night guard to help control grinding. This appliance helps separate the jaws and relieve pressure on the joints. However, this is only a temporary solution and requires constant compliance.
Orthodontics plays a major role in relieving TMJ.
There is nothing wrong with recommending home remedies, such as physical therapy, warm compresses, pain relievers, and stress management, to treat TMJ at home. But, these remedies only offer short-term relief and don’t address the underlying issues. You should recommend your patients get an orthodontic evaluation.
Orthodontics is beneficial because it helps:
- Align a patient’s bite: a malocclusion can create a bite problem when a person eats. Think of how many times in a single day a person bites down. After many years with a degenerative disc disorder, this can cause significant pain and damage. Imagine if every time you chew or bite down it causes jaw pain? Orthodontics is a solution to create a healthy bite.
- Prevent additional pressure from a malocclusion: When the TMJ disc, muscles, bones, and joints are not synchronously working together, it can create major inflammation and pressure in the jaw leading to clicking, popping, and pain that radiates behind the eyes, face, and neck.
- Improve eating, laughing, and speaking: Each time your upper and lower jaw are apart, it causes stress on the joints in your face. Orthodontic appliances like a splint or braces can prevent your teeth from grinding against each other and relieve pain that is caused when your jaw performs normal tasks.
- Decrease inflammation that contributes to headaches and neck pain: Orthodontics can improve your posture and how your mouth, face, and neck all work together. A night guard can help alleviate issues when you’re sleeping so you’re not putting additional pressure on your joints.
Aligners may be an option for some patients, but for patients who chronically grind their teeth or have tension headaches from TMJD, traditional braces may be the better option for them. Orthodontics is highly valuable in dentistry, but in order for you to comprehensively treat your patients, you need to be prepared.
Once you understand the cause of TMJ for your patient, you can effectively treat them using orthodontic appliances like a splint, night guard, or braces. Your patients will appreciate the option of undergoing treatment with a dentist they trust, and their quality of life will dramatically improve. If you’re interested in learning how adding orthodontics can benefit your practice, your patients, and their TMJ problems, visit The American Orthodontic Society to find out more.
To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.