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Can Braces Really Lead To TMJ Disorder?

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One frequent concern of patients seeking orthodontics is the rumor that braces and other devices can cause temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, disorder. This painful condition occurs when your bite does not align correctly with the rest of the bones in your face, and some individuals believe that it may be a risk for orthodontic patients. The scientific evidence on this subject is still inconclusive, but there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of developing TMJ disorder while still correcting your teeth. 

Understanding Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

TMJ disorder is thought to be caused by multiple factors, including stress, arthritis and destructive habits like tooth grinding. Your temporomandibular joint connects your lower jaw to your skull, and any small fluctuation in its alignment can trigger excruciating pain across your head, neck and shoulders. Because so many minor factors can influence the development of TMJ disorder, it is difficult to pinpoint its precise cause in many causes. This ambiguity is part of the reason why so many are willing to believe that braces can lead to the disorder. 

Examining the Risks of Orthodontics

When examining the scientific literature available regarding orthodontics and TMJ disorder, there does not appear to be a demonstrable link between the two. One 1992 study followed 451 orthodontics patients and found that none developed the symptoms of TMJ disorder. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research is similarly skeptical, claiming that "research disputes the popular belief that a bad bite or orthodontic braces can trigger TMJ disorders." 

Preventing TMJ Disorder Prior to Orthodontics

Many braces are not only used to straighten your teeth, but also to correct your bite. A significant shift could possibly lead to the symptoms of TMJ disorder, but in most cases orthodontics should actually minimize your risk by moving your jaw into a more optimal position. Nevertheless, if you are still worried about developing this disorder, talk to your dentist about getting screened for it before committing to your braces. A quick x-ray may reveal vulnerabilities in your joints, which can be accommodated as necessary. 

Correcting TMJ Disorder With Orthodontics 

If you do develop TMJ disorder, either before or after your orthodontics, you may be interested to learn that braces can also be an effective treatment option. By halting any bad habits like tooth grinding and guiding your jaw into a less painful alignment, you can at least minimize the pain of your condition and prevent it from deteriorating further. Whenever you are feeling reservations or worries about an upcoming procedure, the best thing you can do is speak with your orthodontist to have your specific fears heard and explained based on your situation. The good news, however, is that with no credibly established link between TMJ and braces, you should be able to proceed with correcting your teeth without worrying about your future health. Click here for more on orthodontics.