Can Braces Cause Or Correct Temporomandibular Disorder?

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is an oral disease characterized by pain in the orofacial area caused by dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint. This is the joint responsible for moving the jaw around during chewing, talking, and other oral activities. There are a variety of things that can cause this condition as well as several ways to treat it, and many people wonder if wearing braces has some effect on the disease. Here's what you need to know about the connection between TMD and braces.

Malocclusion and TMD

For many years it was believed that missing and/or misalignment of teeth caused temporomandibular disorder. That's because an improperly aligned jaw can put undue stress on the joint, leading to problems over time. Crooked or missing teeth can throw off a person's bite and cause the jaw to sit or work at an awkward angle and result in joint dysfunction and the eventual onset of TMD symptoms. Bite issues can also lead to other oral problems that may contribute to the development of TMD such as grinding and clenching.

Because of this, one treatment option for correcting TMD issues is to fix malocclusions using braces.  The idea is that shifting the teeth into their proper positions will reduce the undue strain on the TM joint and alleviate associated symptoms. However, studies indicate that braces may only work in specific situations, specifically when the malocclusions cause all the biting force to shift to the back teeth (anterior open bite) and when the jaw shifts to one side when the teeth are closed (posterior cross bite).

Other than those two circumstances, braces don't appear to have a significant effect on TMD directly. However, if other misalignments do appear to be contributing to the problem in conjunction with other factors, then straightening the teeth using braces may be one step in a long-term treatment plan to fix the issue.

Braces Causing TMD

There are anecdotal reports of people starting to suffer from TMD symptoms either while or shortly after wearing braces. However, studies don't support the connection between the two. It is possible that in some cases the braces may be poorly installed and cause bite issues that contribute to the onset of TMD. Many times, though, patients may be suffering from other, previously undiagnosed, conditions that are the actual root cause of TMD such as arthritis in the joint, and the misalignment in the teeth caused by incorrectly placed braces are only a contributing factor to the disease.

TMD can be a very painful condition to deal with. For more information about how wearing braces may impact this disease, contact a dentist.