Are You at Risk for TMJ?

Feb 18, 2014, by Dr. Becky Coats
Signs of TMJ

We are living in a new era for TMJ research and understanding. The results from the Orofacial Pain Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment (OPPERA) are transforming our understanding of the condition because of its scale and its unique design.

In order to study who develops TMJ, the study recruited more than 3000 individuals at 4 research centers. None of these individuals had TMJ when the study started, but as about 3.9% of individuals developed TMJ each year for the nearly three years of the study, we have gotten a clearer picture of what conditions contribute most to developing TMJ.

Miscellaneous Aches and Pains

It turns out that many people who develop TMJ aren’t just affected by TMJ, but are often subject to many other chronic pain conditions. In the OPPERA study, increased risk for TMJ was associated with:

The last two may seem a little unusual, but it’s important to remember that TMJ isn’t a condition that’s limited to the mouth or head–it affects your entire body, and may be affected by global health conditions. One previously released insight of OPPERA is the connection between TMJ and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

So, whether you’re talking to your doctor or to a neuromuscular dentist about your TMJ, it’s important to report pains that you get regularly, even if they don’t seem like they’re connected.

Other Health Conditions

Although pains are the largest predictors of developing TMJ, other health conditions and markers were important as well.

Smokers were more likely to develop TMJ than non-smokers.

Anyone with sleeping disorders, such as sleep apnea, was more likely to develop TMJ.

Finally, the ratio of the length of your index finger to your ring finger was found to be predictive. This may seem odd, but this ratio is well-correlated with exposure to sex hormones during development. If you are exposed to more estrogen, the index finger and ring finger are close in size, but if you’re exposed to more testosterone, your index finger will be significantly shorter than your ring finger. The study found that a higher ratio (more estrogen exposure) was predictive, which goes along with previous findings that women are more likely to develop TMJ than men.

Are You Developing TMJ?

If you think you might be developing TMJ, it’s best to seek treatment early to avoid potential degenerative damage to your jaw joint.

For a diagnosis or to learn about treatment options, please contact Grapevine Dental Care in Grapevine, Texas today.