If your child has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), or if you had it as a child, you should know that the disease often affects the jaw. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is one of the less severe forms of arthritis, as most children grow out of it. But it can still have devastating effects during the years that children suffer from it. If you or your child have experienced JRA, braces may be able to help mitigate the effects of the disease.
What JRA Does to the Jaw
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis targets the joints of the body, creating inflammation and scar tissue. This includes the joints that sit in the hinge of the jaw, allowing the jaw to open and close, and shift from left to right. While rheumatoid arthritis at any age can create discomfort in the jaw, JRA affects the jaw hinge while the jaw is still growing. Normally, the jaw will fuse once the growth is complete. However, JRA can cause the jaw to fuse before the growth process is complete, causing the jaw to grow unevenly. This can prevent the movement of the prematurely fused joint, and if only one joint was afflicted, it can cause the healthy joint to suffer from excess pressure and stress.
How Braces Can Help
While no method to completely stop the damage of JRA exists, braces can help to prevent the more serious problems that come with joint damage to the jaw.
If the braces are employed while a child is still experiencing JRA, an orthodontist can use braces and splints to encourage growth on the side of the jaw that's damaged.
If you have already experienced JRA, braces can still help. They can even out the jaw, preventing excess pressure from being placed on the joint, and realign your bite.
Problems Without Braces
In addition to limited mobility, if you don't seek treatment for JRA, you may have pain and discomfort in your jaw and teeth in the future. A misaligned jaw and damaged jaw hinge can cause bruxism, excess wear and tear on your teeth, and cause temporomandibular disorder (TMD). TMD can cause annoying clicking in the jaw joint, as well as even making the jaw joint completely lock, leaving you unable to fully open or close your mouth.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that can't be cured, but it can be managed. Seeking help from an orthodontist at any age can help to resolve the problems that JRA causes in the jaw and improve your overall level of pain and stiffness.