Most patients who seek orthodontic treatment do so because of crooked teeth or misaligned bites, known as “malocclusions”. But what about individuals who experience a popping or clicking sensation in their jaws or suffer from chronic jaw pain– could braces or Invisalign help?
TMJ is a chronic pain condition that occurs in the temporomandibular joint, which acts like a sliding hinge connecting the jawbone to the skull. The precise cause of TMJ pain can be difficult to determine as multiple factors including jaw injuries and stress may play a role. In some cases, self-care measures can help relieve this pain. For other patients, persistent jaw pain can severely compromise their quality of life.
Understanding TMJ pain: symptoms and orthodontic treatment options
TMJ pain is complex and can vary from patient to patient. In some cases, bite problems, stress or habitual teeth grinding and clenching may aggravate the pain.
Could you be suffering from TMJ pain? Common symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness in your jaw
- Pain in one or both of TMJ joints
- Persistent, aching facial pain
- Pain in or around your ear
- Pain while chewing
- Persistent “popping” of the jaw
- Chronic headaches
Treatment options vary between patients. However, if your pain is related to habitual teeth grinding and clenching or a bite problem, orthodontic treatments like Invisalign or braces may be able to help. When the teeth are correctly positioned, the temporomandibular joint will also be able to shift back to its correct alignment. A correct bite can help to reduce or even eliminate recurring jaw pain. Additionally, when your bite is correctly aligned, you may also find that you are less likely to clench your jaw or grind your teeth at night while sleeping. While these changes may seem minor, they can significantly improve your quality of life.
While treatments like Invisalign or braces are designed primarily to correct teeth spacing and align the bite, some patients do enjoy the secondary benefit of less jaw pain. In other cases, a combination of treatments like stress reduction or muscles stimulation to reduce joint tension may be necessary to relieve the jaw pain.
Becoming more aware of tension-causing habits can help, too. Do you chew on a pencil or clench your jaw when you’re stressed? Bringing awareness to this behaviour can help you break a bad habit and give your jaw a rest. Modifying your diet may also help. Try eating softer foods, cutting foods into pieces, and avoiding sticky or chewy foods including chewing gum. Your doctor, dentist or orthodontist can also show you how to do gentle exercises to stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles. Finally, a warm compress placed on the jaw can help reduce pain and alleviate tension.
Next steps: learn more about jaw pain and orthodontic treatments
Imagine waking up each morning without any stiffness or soreness in your jaw. Imagine sleeping comfortably through the night without clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. Sounds pretty great, right? If your bite is misaligned, orthodontic treatments may offer the added benefit of less jaw pain.
At Docbraces, we believe every patient deserves to live life with a confident, healthy smile. For more information about our orthodontic services and how these treatments might be able to help your jaw pain, schedule a no-obligation appointment with one of our orthodontists.