Can braces make TMJ worse?

The benefits of Invisalign and braces are well known and documented. Yet, there may be concerns for patients with pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) using their orthodontic appliances. 

Generally, TMJ can be corrected using orthodontic devices if it’s caused by bruxism or a misaligned bite, and the necessary adjustments can be made to manage any discomfort. 

Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) can be caused by any of the components of your chewing system, including the joints or jaw muscles. TMD may occur, for instance, if the muscles and ligaments that attach to the joints become inflamed, or if the actual joint is injured due to arthritis or trauma. 

braces make tmj worse

TMJ pain caused by Teeth Grinding

TMJ – Temporomandibular Joint Disorder can be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Arthritis affecting joints in the jaw
  • A dislocated disc in the TMJ
  • Teeth grinding and jaw clenching (bruxism)
  • Trauma to the jaw, joints, or surrounding tissues
  • Stress
  • A misaligned bite

For most people, teeth grinding occurs as a mechanical reflex and a habit while they are asleep, and when awakened, they have absolutely no recollection of it. 

In fact, when these individuals wake up in the morning, their teeth are fine and experience no jaw pain. This implies that teeth grinding usually goes unnoticed unless someone informs you about it, or it begins to cause visible tooth damage. 

The dental community refers to this problem as bruxism, and they recognize it as a serious concern that affects individuals of all ages, from young children to the elderly, not only because of the damage it causes to your teeth, but also the fact that it may interfere with your treatment and recovery for other dental problems, including TMJ pain and orthodontic issues.

Signs and symptoms of TMD include:

  • Jaw stiffness and/or pain
  • Difficulty opening your mouth fully
  • Jaws locked in either open or closed position
  • Headaches – including earaches, neck aches and/or shoulder pain
  • Feeling of fatigue in the jaw and face
  • A popping, grating or clicking noise when you open and close your mouth 
  • Swelling or tenderness on the side of your face
  • Pain in multiple teeth
  • Painful or difficulty chewing
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

Symptoms of teeth grinding and jaw clenching

Clenching your jaw while sleeping causes some people to wake up with headaches, jaw pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain. In addition, teeth grinding can result in multiple dental complications including excessive tooth wear, tooth sensitivity, cracked teeth, receding gums, and misaligned jaw. 

Bruxism and TMJ disorder usually go hand-in-hand. They are caused by malocclusion or a misaligned bite, and their symptoms tend to increase at night with other dental problems or stress. These conditions not only cause jaw pain, but may also harm your oral and overall health. 

Fortunately, you can use oral appliances at night to prevent your hind teeth from touching while asleep, which should also help sooth any jaw pain. Depending on the root cause of your bruxism, your orthodontists can recommend any of the multiple orthodontic treatments to correct the condition.

Can Braces Make TMJ Worse?

Having orthodontic appliances fitted to your mouth, whether Invisalign clear aligners, ceramic, metal, or clear braces, can exert some strain on the joints and muscles of the mouth and jaw. The stress caused by braces and aligners to reposition your teeth and straighten your bite can occasionally cause an imbalance between the lower and upper jaws, aggravating the temporomandibular joint.

If you’ve never had TMJ pain and begin to develop TMJ symptoms after getting braces, you should contact your orthodontics professional as soon as possible.

Invisalign, braces, and TMJ

Concerns for braces and Invisalign making TMJ worse originated in 1978 when one patient in Michigan won the case against her dentist, in which she claimed that orthodontic treatment involving extractions and headgear has caused her TMD.

A lot of research has been done since to find out whether Invisalign and braces can cause or cure TMD. According to current studies, Invisalign and braces do not cause TMD or enhance a patient’s likelihood of acquiring the condition. Extractions, headgear, and other orthodontic appliances and treatments were also not linked to TMJ issues in the studies, so they cannot make any TMJ pain worse.

Invisalign vs braces for tmj

When it comes to treating temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, both Invisalign and braces can be effective remedies. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing between the two.

In some cases, Invisalign treatment can help alleviate TMJ symptoms by improving the alignment of the bite and reducing jaw joint strain.

While braces are not specifically designed to treat TMJ disorders, they can indirectly help by correcting misaligned teeth, which will in turn contribute to TMJ symptoms. 

The choice between Invisalign and braces for TMJ treatment depends on various factors, including the severity of the TMJ disorder and the specific orthodontic needs of the individual. 

In some cases, orthodontic treatment alone may not fully address TMJ symptoms, and additional therapies such as physical therapy, medication, or splints may be recommended.

Frequently asked questions

Why do I experience jaw pain with Invisalign?

There are a few instances when patients, who are suffering from bruxism, are unable to wear their bit splint at night, causing them to go back to experiencing the symptoms of TMJ disorder. In some cases, the jaw pain tends to be worse. If this happens, do not suffer in silence. Instead, seek the services of your orthodontist, who may recommend that you wear pads at night.

Can Invisalign help with teeth grinding?

You can wear Invisalign aligners even if you have a problem with teeth grinding. In fact, they can help to reduce the impact on your teeth by acting as a night guard. But there’s a better solution for those struggling with bruxism.

Does Invisalign protect teeth from grinding?

There are some patients who clench or grind their teeth excessively, causing their Invisalign aligners to wear rapidly. Excessive grinding on the Invisalign aligners causes the biting surface of the aligner to wear thin, eventually causing the clear plastic to tear. Considering that you need to wear your Invisalign retainers overnight, you can prevent the rapid wear and tear of your aligners by wearing a bruxism or bite splint at night, to maintain a constant force on your teeth.

Can retainers make me clench my teeth?

Retainers are designed to keep your teeth in proper alignment, and generally don’t affect muscle activity in the jaw. This means that they can neither trigger grinding and clenching, nor stop it from happening. At best, they will reduce damage to your teeth by minimizing the impact of bruxism.

Can i wear a night guard with invisalign?

Although Invisalign aligners and retainers can form a barrier to reduce the impact from teeth grinding, it’s recommended that you wear a custom night guard over your aligner to manage teeth grinding.

Final Thoughts

If you have a problem with jaw clenching and grinding your teeth, or if you suffer from TMJ, then you should consult your orthodontist to help you determine whether Invisalign vs. braces can successfully align your teeth to prevent TMD, or you need night guards to correct bruxism. 



  • Editorial team

    A team comprising oral health care professionals, researchers, and professional Writers, striving to impart you with the knowledge to improve your oral health, and that of your loved ones. 

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