Disorders of pain in the TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) can range from a minor annoyance to debilitating pain. The cause of discomfort is very difficult to diagnose and is often multifactorial. Because of the severity and difficulty in treatment, sufferers often seek the professional advice of numerous medical specialties including Physical Therapists, dentists, Pain specialists, ENT doctors, chiropracters, and of course, ORTHODONTISTS!
Despite popular belief, malocclusion is only suspected to contribute to about 10% of TMJD, largely overshadowed by factors such as stress and joint problems. The study of the relationship between malocclusion and TMJD is where the orthodontist’s role comes into play. In 1987, there was a lawsuit involving a patient suffereing from TMJD after receiving orthodontic care. This spurred the American Association of Orthodontics to spend millions of dollars on research to determine if a link between TMJD and orthodontics exists. The research unanimously agrees that orthodontics neither causes nor cures TMJD. One exception is the correction of crossbites. Certain crossbites cause the bite to force the TMJ into an abnormal position, causing TMJD. The correction of said crossbite with orthodontics can alleviate the symptoms.