Braces are typically thought as the most effective way to straighten crooked teeth, but they can do a lot more than that, too. For people who are struggling with the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, braces can potentially help to prevent or correct serious problems with the jaw and temporomandibular joints. Read on to learn how arthritis can affect the jaw and what braces can do to mitigate it.

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects the Jaw

Rheumatoid arthritis can potentially strike at any age; children can have a variant of the disease called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, whereas adults are also susceptible to it. While rheumatoid arthritis doesn't do much to harm bone itself, it can cause serious problems in the jaw joints on either side of the face. These are called the temporomandibular joints, and they act as hinges on either side of your mouth, allowing you to open and close it at will.

Whether an adult or child develops rheumatoid arthritis, the temporomandibular joints can be damaged. In children, the temporomandibular joints may become misaligned due to inflammation of the joint, which can be painful and make opening the mouth difficult. For adults, any existing misalignment of the jaw will that puts pressure on the temporomandibular joints may exacerbate arthritis-induced tissue inflammation in the joints.

How Braces Can Help

If children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis receive braces, they can potentially reap major benefits to the temporomandibular joints. Since the jawline is still growing, braces can help to realign the joints and jawline, reducing the risk of pain and discomfort in adulthood.

For those who are already adults, braces can help to reduce any misalignment of the jaw that puts more pressure on the joints. As teeth are straightened and the bite becomes even, it can also help to reduce discomfort in the joints by allowing the jaw to rest fully when not in use, rather than being held partially open at an uneven angle from an overbite or underbite. Since excessive pressure on the joints can cause them to lock or become more painful, this is a major advantage to anyone who is struggling with pain in their jaw joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause temporomandibular joint disorder, leading to a lot of additional pain for arthritis sufferers. However, braces can potentially help or even reverse the problem depending on the age of the person. If you have arthritis, talk to an orthodontist to find out if your jaw can be made more comfortable with braces.