How Braces Can Help Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis-Induced TMJ

If your child has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, you're probably already aware that the disease can cause long-term damage to the joints in their body. This includes the joints that hold the jaw together, which can make it painful and difficult for your child to eat, chew, and even speak. Aside from working with your child's rheumatologist to control inflammation, there's another step you can take to help reduce pain in the jaw: getting braces for your child. This guide will explain how braces can help, and what you need to know prior to getting them for your child.


TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is often caused by injury or other trauma, but can also be caused by diseases like JRA. As the joints in the jaw undergo inflammation and build up scar tissue from your child's immune system attacking itself, the joint may become stiff, rigid, or get stuck in place. Once this happens, it can be painful for your child to perform any actions that require flexing the temporomandibular joint and moving their mouths.

Unfortunately, depending on the age of your child, your child may not even understand what's happening to them, and may not communicate the pain well to you. Very young children may simply think that talking or eating hurts them, and may become less interested in food or communicating with others due to it. If your child is exhibiting any symptoms that might indicate that the JRA is affecting the temporomandibular joint, talk to your rheumatologist immediately.

How Braces Help

Once your rheumatologist has a plan in place to keep inflammation to a minimum, getting braces for your child can help with the discomfort even more.

Due to the build-up of scar tissue and inflammation in the joint, JRA often results in underdeveloped or overdeveloped lower jaws that don't line up properly with the upper jaw. Over time, this puts more stress on the joints, which only increases the discomfort and rigidity. In addition, it can also increase the likelihood that the joint will lock when it's forced open, meaning your child may be stuck in the very frightening scenario of not being able to open or close their mouth.

Braces can be used to gently move the jaw forward or backward to where it should be, and reduce the stress and pressure placed upon the joints. Over time, this can help your child to have a normal-looking jawline, and keep them from having serious discomfort in adulthood.

Work Together

When you go to get braces for your child, make sure to bring along any paperwork, x-rays or other information your rheumatologist can provide on your child's jaw. While your child's orthodontist will perform their own exams and x-rays as well, knowing what your child's pre-existing condition is with JRA will help the orthodontist to formulate a plan of action.

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can cause many secondary problems, like TMJ, but thankfully, it's easier to help children who are still developing physically to mitigate the symptoms. If you still have questions, click for more info.