Orthodontic treatment (Orthodontics) involves the use of traditional braces or clear aligners to straighten and align teeth, as well as improve the function of the bite. Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) refer to a group of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and the muscles that control jaw movement.
There is a common perception that there is a clear link between orthodontic treatment and TMDs because changes in the position and alignment of the teeth and jaws can affect the TMJ and its surrounding muscles. For example, if the teeth are misaligned or the bite is not properly aligned, it can put extra stress on the TMJ and cause discomfort or pain in the jaw, face, neck, or ears.
Additionally, orthodontic treatment could also lead to TMDs if it is not properly planned or executed. For example, if treatment is done in a way that puts excessive force on the system, it can lead to inflammation and pain in the TMJ.
However, it is important to note that the link between orthodontic treatment and TMDs is not clear-cut. The contemporary knowledge on the aetiology of TMDs are still limited but is growing through the years. It is now believed that TMDs is mostly trigger by psychological factors like stress, anxiety, traumas and others. With that in mind, the correction of the bite and misalignment is just a small part of the problem and may or may not improve the TMD.
Patients should be aware of self-entitled experts who will promise to improve or treat TMDs with orthodontic treatments. In an article published at the American Journal of Orthodontics in 2022 (Kandasamy, S et al. Temporomandibular disorders and orthodontics: What have we learned from 1992-2022?), the author brilliantly wrote:
“Self-proclaimed experts and their believers may simply dismiss any evidence put before them that contradicts their beliefs, even after 30 years of quality scientific inquiry and compelling evidence. Although it is now generally recognized and widely accepted by the orthodontic specialty that the issue of orthodontics and TMDs has transitioned toward the biopsychosocial model, there will still be some who will continue to propagate their personal anecdotal concepts that confuse and potentially harm the public.”
Overall, it is important to work closely with a qualified professional to develop a treatment plan that takes into account any pre-existing TMD symptoms and minimises the risk of developing TMDs as a result of orthodontic treatment.
Dr Vivaldi has over 20 years of orthodontic experience and will be able to curate a treatment plan and help you with your TMD.