Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) occurs when the muscles and ligaments that support the jaw joint become irritated or stretched out of alignment. There are lots of ways to treat TMD, such as cutting out hard-to-eat foods or going to the dentist for Botox injections. If you don't want to rely on over-the-counter medications for your TMD, you may want to visit an orthodontist for further help. Here are three orthodontic treatments that could help your TMD.

TMJ Splint

TMJ splints look similar to night guards or sports guards, but they serve a different purpose. Night guards are usually used to prevent bruxism, or teeth grinding, but they don't provide the vertical support of a TMJ splint. TMJ splints are sturdier and help to support the jaw joint. TMJ splints help people avoid incorrect teeth positioning when their jaws are closed. Some people may need to wear their splints full time since they might grind their teeth when they sleep and exacerbate their TMD. However, some patients may only need to wear their splints for a few months until their TMD symptoms subside.

TENS Unit Therapy Plus Bite Splint

Your orthodontist can manufacture specialized splints that are used in conjunction with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units. TENS units are used for all sorts of ailments since these devices reduce pain signals, relax muscle tissue, and encourage the release of endorphins. TENS units can help your jaw muscles relax, so your orthodontist may use one of these devices around your jaw joint to help re-train your bite.

Once your jaw muscles are relaxed, your orthodontist will take an impression of your teeth to develop a splint for daily wear. You may need to go in for regular sessions with your orthodontist to get TENS unit therapy and to get fitted for a new splint. This is similar to Invisalign trays, where a patient needs to go to the dentist to get fitted for new appliances as their bite changes.


TMJ splints and TENS unit therapy/bite splints work for mild to moderate TMD cases. If you have severe malocclusion, or crooked teeth, that truly prevent bite re-training, your orthodontist might recommend braces. Even if you don't grind your teeth, the poor positioning of your teeth may put undue stress on the soft and hard tissues of your jaw. In some cases, TMDs from malocclusions can cause condylar resorption. This means that the jaw joint can shrink and break down due to TMD. Some people can end up with osteoarthritis or "anterior open bite" due to untreated TMD. In short, braces can be a great benefit to help people correct TMD and avoid further complications. Your orthodontist can go over all of the different options, such as invisible braces, ceramic braces, lingual braces, and metal braces.

Reach out to an orthodontist like Laveen Smiles for more information.