Jaw pain. Ear or neck aches. Regular toothaches. Strange sounds when you open and close your mouth.
The aforementioned are all common symptoms associated with the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, a critical joint that connects the jaw to the skull. Unfortunately for about 10 million Americans, this is also a very problematic joint – and issues with the TMJ have been come to be known as “TMJ disorder.” While it’s estimated that about 10 million Americans experience TMJ disorder these days, the general thinking is that this number is much higher than what it was 20 years ago.
Yes, in other words, the frequency of jaw disorders appears to be on the incline – and the demographic that seems to be experiencing TMJ disorder the most are young people, generally between the ages of 15 and 35.
But why the rise in the number of patients experiencing TMJ disorder? According to many dental professionals, the increase has to do with a pair of major factors: stress and increased awareness. Let’s examine:
- Stress: What’s one thing that’s common with both students and young professionals? Stress. What’s more is that not only can stress lead to the likes of teeth clenching and grinding, behavior that many dentists believe leads to TMJ disorder, but stress can also throw muscles and ligaments out of whack in the jaw, creating tension and also furthering in the severity of TMJ disorder. There are, however, ways to minimize stress or manage its impact on the TMJ. One way is to simply wear a mouth guard at night to prevent the teeth from clenching and grinding. The other is to get acquainted with some popular stress-reducing activities or exercises.
- Heightened Awareness: The other big reason why TMJ disorder has seemingly become more diagnosed in recent years is because most people – and professionals – are now more aware of the condition. While it’s true that nobody is 100 percent sure what causes TMJ issues, there are a number of probabilities – like stress. Plus, as more and more becomes known about the condition and the condition is able to be more accurately diagnosed, it’s only natural for more patients to be associated with it. In order to treat a particular condition, it obviously needs to be properly diagnosed.
As you can see, the rise in the amount of jaw disorders hasn’t been by coincidence. In fact, it has resulted from a better understanding and a heightened awareness of TMJ disorder – and it’s only reasonable to believe that dentists and medical professionals will continue to only learn more about the causes and treatments moving forward.
For more information on TMJ disorders, possible causes and solutions, contact Caven Dental today.