At Choice Orthodontics, we believe everyone deserves a healthy, beautiful smile. Our orthodontist, Dr. Lauren Windhorst, and her highly trained team work hard to approach treatments on an individual basis, designing comprehensive, personalized plans that perfectly meet each patient's needs. But while you might think orthodontic treatment is purely about getting a great smile, there are actually many other benefits, including relief from chronic jaw pain, or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD).

About Your Jaw

The "Temporomandibular Joint" (more commonly referred to as the “jaw joint”) assists in the basic opening and closing movements of the jaw. The jaw joint is the most complicated joint in the body, connecting the mandible (lower jaw) to the skull. It is capable of movement across four axes of motion and rotation. Unfortunately, that complexity can come with painful side effects caused by TMD.

Causes & Symptoms of TMD

TMD is one of the more common orthodontic problems, with around 40 million Americans suffering from it at some point in their lives. TMD can be caused by clenching/grinding, facial trauma, parafunctional habits, and misaligned teeth. Misaligned teeth can force the jaws to sit improperly and create pressure and tension points in the mouth. These points can clamp down on nerves running through the face, causing a variety of problems including:

  • Recurring headaches
  • Face pain
  • Swelling
  • Hearing loss or tinnitus
  • Stiff neck or jaw
  • Back, neck, or shoulder aches
  • Vision problems
  • Eye pain
  • Clicks and pops when opening or closing the jaw
  • Pain in the jaws when opening or closing
  • Grinding teeth
  • Numb fingers and hands
  • Deterioration of joint tissue, which cushions the jaw bones during the opening and closing movement of the mouth
  • And other, more extensive problems


In order to detect a TMJ problem, or prevent one from escalating, your orthodontist will need to do a full evaluation at our Saint Joseph or Gallatin, MO office. The evaluation will examine the joint tissue in the "hinge" of the jaw, the fit of the top and bottom teeth, and other issues concerning your oral and facial structure.


If you do have a mild case of TMD, over-the-counter painkillers, self-massage, and cold compresses can provide relief from pain and other symptoms. For more serious cases of TMD, your orthodontist will recommend alternate treatments. Often, we will suggest using a mouthguard to relieve teeth grinding issues. In certain circumstances, we will instruct you to use orthodontic appliances or retainers to alleviate discomfort or redirect positioning of the jaw. In more severe situations, your orthodontist may recommend a more invasive procedure like orthognathic surgery (jaw surgery).

Schedule Your Evaluation Today

If you'd like to learn more about TMD, or you feel you may be suffering from jaw dysfunction, we'd be happy to speak with you. Please feel free to contact us directly or request an appointment with your trusted Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas orthodontist online now. We look forward to working with you in our Saint Joseph or Gallatin, MO office.

Click here for more information about TMJ/TMD.