The muscles and joints of the jaw affect the jaw relationship, occlusion or bite (position of teeth in the jaws) and facial aesthetics.

Painful jaw joints, popping and cracking sounds, stiffness, facial pain and headaches are some of the common symptoms of temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Orthodontists and dentists call the jaw joint the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and when this area just in front of the ears suffers strain, TMD is one of the potential results. For some patients, braces or Invisalign clear aligners can help reduce strain on the jaw joints, alleviating the symptoms of TMD.

TMD Diagnoses

A dentist or an orthodontist can diagnose your TMD. An orthodontist may be the best to form a proper diagnosis, however, because of his extensive study and schooling of how the face and jaw work together.

TMD Treatment Options

Orthodontics is one common treatment option for patients suffering from TMD. If the source of the pain stems from a bad bite, orthodontic treatment can correct the malocclusion and ensure the jaw can work properly.

Mouthguards or splints may also be an option, especially for patients who grind their teeth. The mouthguard will work to protect your teeth and reduce the strain on the jaw joints.

Some patients may find relief from over-the-counter pain medications or muscle relaxers, but these will only provide short-term relief and are not a solution to the underlying issues.

Patients who have stress-induced TMD may benefit from counseling and stress relieving exercises. Some patients, however, may only find relief through surgical procedures.

Braces or Invisalign treatment are one of a range of TMD treatments that can improve the function and alignment of the jaw. Splints, physical therapy and occlusal adjustment are some other options. Braces can gradually adjust the position of teeth and correct misaligned bites. When the teeth meet correctly, the jaw joint should no longer be under any strain, and the TMD symptoms should ease. However, as with any treatment, it’s wise to consult with an orthodontist early to best understand treatment options and their consequences.

Though TMD often resolves itself without treatment, sometimes the condition doesn’t go away or the severity of the symptoms lessens the patient’s quality of life. With effective orthodontics, specific jaw exercises combined with innovative techniques can accomplish significant reduction or complete elimination of popping, headaches and facial pain along with a straighter smile!