Alpharetta, Georgia – Patients often go to see a dental specialist because they have crooked teeth, spacing problems, open bites, etc. The main interest is to fix those issues to achieve a straight smile. Valid and highly beneficial for your oral health.
What many dental patients ignore is that our teeth, gumline, palate, and other parts are deeply connected. Our mandibles are crucial to the facial structure, as well as teeth. We could group them all in what specialists call ‘orofacial structures.’
These structures include the teeth, jaws, muscles, bones, and soft tissues of the face and mouth. Understanding how they connect and serve each other is paramount for orthodontists to diagnose and design treatment plans.
“I see many patients who don’t realize how intimately related the mouth and nose truly are,” says Alpharetta orthodontist Dr. Nima Hajibaik. “I liken it to a two-story home, where the oral cavity is the lower floor and the nose the top. If things aren’t working properly on the top floor, those issues will trickle down to the bottom floor.”
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the jawbone and the skull, is a complex joint that allows for jaw movement during functions like chewing and speaking.
Dental malocclusions (bad bites) can affect the alignment and function of the TMJ, leading to temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Orthodontic treatment can promote proper joint function and alleviate TMD symptoms.
The temporomandibular joint disorder is the name for different conditions that trouble functions of the TMJ and the surrounding area (mandible, jaw, ears, head). Everyone has two of these joints located on either side of the head, just in front of the ears.
Millions of Americans suffer from temporomandibular disorders that result in problems with the patient’s jaw, jaw joint, and near muscles. It can cause pain, limitations to movement, popping or grinding sensations, headaches, and uneven bite.
There is evidence to suggest that when children suffer from breathing problems that result in mouth breathing, such as those caused by allergies, this can affect the growth of the entire head and neck region. And that can result in both TMD pain and sleep apnea as they grow into adults.
The causes of TMD are multiple, and sometimes doctors can’t trace the origin of the problem. However, this does not mean patients can’t have treatment.
Can Allergies Make TMJ Worse? – Chronic Rhinitis Can Be Related to TMJ Disorder
Yes, that’s how linked everything is in our body. Sinus inflammation and, therefore allergies, such as rhinitis, can have an origin in temporomandibular joint disorder.
The connection lies in the anatomical proximity of the orofacial structures.
Nasal allergies can cause inflammation and swelling of the nasal passages and sinus canals. This inflammation can extend to the surrounding tissues, including the TMJ.
The same thing happens when a person has sinusitis. The inflammation and congestion of the area can reach the TMJ, increasing the pressure and leading to pain or discomfort in the jaw joint zone.
Although allergies can alter TMJ functioning and even produce new TMD symptoms, they are not the cause of temporomandibular joint disorders. Of course, addressing the symptoms of allergies can help alleviate TMD.
Can Braces Help With TMD?
Orthodontics can help alleviate a lot of the symptoms of TMD by treating malocclusion issues.
Having a malocclusion means, broadly speaking, that your mouth and teeth do not fit properly when you close them, and that causes excessive stress and strain on the TMJ.
When you align your teeth through orthodontic appliances, you improve the way the upper jaw and lower jaw fit together and create a more harmonious bite relationship.
When your teeth sit in a problematic position, the force your mandible exerts to bite and chew is uneven, aggravating TMD symptoms. But orthodontic treatment aims to create stable and long-term results, reducing the risk of TMD symptoms recurring in the future.
What about clear aligners? Do they help or worsen TMD? While Invisalign aligner trays are first and foremost known for their cosmetic benefits and effectiveness in treating mild to moderate malocclusions, they can also help with TMD treatment.
The way Invisalign contributes to alleviating temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is similar to the improvements you can achieve through conventional metal braces.
The only differences lie in the fact that Invisalign clear aligners are whole-smooth-acrylic pieces and don’t require various components that can cause irritations and discomfort in your mouth.
What’s best for you between metal braces or clear aligners will depend on the specific needs and severity of each case.
To properly treat TMD, some patients may need to see multiple specialists. In addition to your dentist or orthodontist, patients may also need to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
During an examination, your orthodontist or dentist will determine if you have any type of dental misalignment. They will also check to see if your teeth slide from side to side and observe the jaw as it opens and shuts. X-rays or MRIs will also be taken.
The treatments to correct TMD are as varying on the patients who have this disorder. Some patients may find relief by learning to stretch, relax and massage their jaw muscles or by refraining from unnecessarily working their jaw (such as chewing gum). Other patients may find heat or cold therapy helps, while others may increase their exercise to reduce stress in their lives.
Some patients may require additional treatment, such as the use of mouth guards while they sleep. This is especially true for patients whose TMD may be brought on by grinding and clenching their teeth at night.
Orthodontists can start treatment once pain relief has been achieved to create long-term stability and function for their patients. Splints can be created to unload the jaw joint, which will relieve pain.
For patients with severe TMD, their orthodontist may need to work in conjunction with other specialists, such as ENT or surgeons, to ensure proper functionality of the jaw, along with ear, nose, and throat.