TMJ Disorders and Your Bite
By: Dr. Aly Kanani, Certified Specialist in Orthodontics and Experienced Invisalign Provider
Do you ever have pain or soreness when you open and close your mouth? Is there a bothersome popping or clicking that you hear somewhere close to your jaw? Are headaches, migraines, or muscle pain the norm? You could have TMJ Disorder, otherwise known as TMD.
What is TMD?
TMD is a condition of the temporomandibular joint (your jaw) that results in limited mobility and pain. It happens when the jaws don’t function as they should – which places a strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding them. Day after day, opening and closing your mouth thousands of times begins to put a strain on your joint. Eventually, it can catch up with you. If you’re prone to bruxism (chronic grinding,) this can also cause the destruction of joint tissues and lead to painful symptoms.
How is it Diagnosed?
Being diagnosed with TMD is a simple as a visit to your orthodontist. He or she will palpate either side of your jaw as you open and close, assessing your jaw’s movement, any abnormal deviations within the joint, and how the jaws fit together. An x-ray may also be used.
Most people try to treat the symptoms of TMJ Disorder rather than the cause. This may include wearing a bite splint during the night, taking muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory medication, or alternating a warm and cold compress against the joint. In very rare circumstances, surgery is even necessary.
A Holistic Approach
Another approach to preventing, reversing, and managing TMD is to address the way the teeth bite together. If you have a misaligned bite, it means your jaw must modify its natural function as you chew or bite. This could mean bringing your jaw out of alignment or applying pressure in an unnatural manner. Misaligned teeth are one of the leading causes of TMD, yet many people never make the connection.
Correcting the way the teeth bite together allows the jaw to function in a healthy manner. This reduces strain on the joints and makes biting or chewing more efficient. It also prevents abnormal wear and tear on your tooth enamel. In essence, a properly aligned bite and jaws can make it easier to prevent, manage, and treat TMJ Disorder.
I see many adults in my office who have been diagnosed with TMD, or either suspect that they may have it. The next step is to assess thoroughly the relationship of the teeth and jaws to determine if it’s an option to improve their natural function. If it is, we’ll discuss what type of orthodontic treatments and surgery is recommended. Most adults go with something such as a clear orthodontic system that blends in with their bite, but also straightens their teeth efficiently.
Once your upper and lower jaws bite together in a healthy manner, the unnecessary strain is taken off of your jaws – and thus, the symptoms diminish.
Finding out if you have TMJ Disorder and what treatment options are available is a relatively straightforward process. Talk to an orthodontic specialist for more information.