If you notice symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD), you might think it’s not a major concern of immediate treatment.
You think you can live with the symptoms for now.
However, there are many good reasons why it’s better to get TMJ treatment now rather than later.
Several of the most common symptoms of TMJ are pain. In fact, TMJ can cause pain in so many places that you are probably not aware of just how much of your daily pain might be linked to the condition.
TMJ causes pain in your jaw, but it can also cause toothaches, facial pain, neck pain, upper back pain, and headaches. People often experience tension headaches, sinus headaches, and even migraines related to their TMJ. TMJ treatment can help to dramatically reduce or eliminate all of these types of pain.
With all the different types of pain caused by TMJ, people with these conditions often take a lot of (usually) over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications. Although these medications are generally safe when taken for short periods of time as directed on the label, taking them for too long or taking too high a dose can lead to serious risks, such as kidney or liver damage, stomach ulcers and bleeding, high blood pressure, and more.
People with TMJ who are diagnosed with migraines (not uncommon–more about this soon) may also be taking prescription pain medication as well as medications to head off migraine attacks. These not only have risks of their own, but can sometimes combine with OTC medications to put you at greater risk.
Getting drug-free TMJ treatment to reduce or eliminate related pain can drastically reduce your dependence on pain medications. You’ll enjoy not just more pain-free time, but better mental and physical health without all the medication side effects.
TMJ is increasingly linked with what are called “chronic overlapping pain conditions” (COPC). Many people with one of these COPC either have others or tend to develop others. Other COPC that are strongly associated with TMJ include migraines, lower back pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS / IBD), fibromyalgia, and more.
There are two different theories about why these conditions occur together so often. One is that calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) serves as a mediator that is both released by and can cause flare-ups of COPC. Another is that ongoing pain signals teach your brain to become more sensitive to pain so that it interprets more incoming signals as pain.
There is evidence supporting both theories, and not enough evidence to fully support or eliminate either theory. However, if either of these theories turn out to be true, treating TMJ early might head off the development of some of these other conditions.
TMJ is bad for your teeth. Between clenching and grinding (bruxism), and imbalanced bite forces, TMJ increases the wear and trauma on your teeth. The longer your TMJ goes untreated, the more likely you are to have cracked teeth, chipped, teeth, and broken teeth. These can contribute to early tooth loss as well.
It’s important to get your TMJ treated before or in conjunction with reconstructive dentistry. Otherwise, your TMJ will simply wear down or break your restorations in the same way it broke your teeth.
But TMJ isn’t just damaging your teeth, it can also damage your jaw. The popping and clicking you hear and feel in your temporomandibular joints is the sound of the protective disc slipping in and out of position between the temporal bone and mandible. When the disc is out of place, the bones rub against each other and pinch the ligaments that are supposed to hold the disc in place. This results in damage to the ligaments and the bone.
Over time, the disc may lose the ability to slip back into place, which can lead to a locking jaw. Grinding of the bones may ultimately lead to the destruction of the jaw joint.
Nonsurgical TMJ treatment can help keep your joints healthy so you avoid these consequences.
Many people with TMJ find it hard to sleep. All the different types of pain associated with the condition make it difficult to fall asleep. As the condition progresses, it becomes more difficult to find comfortable positions that don’t lead to pain in one place or another.
In addition, TMJ is often associated with sleep apnea. Treating both conditions together can lead to a tremendous improvement in your health.
TMJ can make it hard to chew and enjoy food. This might lead to poor digestion and nutrition. Chewing difficulties linked to TMJ can mean you end up with more large chunks of food in your digestive system, which can lead to problems.
People with TMJ often steer away from foods that are hard to chew, such as nuts, raw vegetables, and unprocessed meats. A soft food diet over the short term to help reduce TMJ symptoms is okay, but over the long term it can be problematic for your health.
Once you realize all the complications related to TMJ now and likely to develop in the near future, it’s clear how much you can benefit from getting TMJ treatment now. Woburn, MA TMJ dentist Dr. Ryan Clancy is ready to help.
Dr. Ryan Clancy and every member of our team are here to help guide you to your healthiest, most confident smile. Take the first step by scheduling a full assessment of your concerns, and begin designing your ideal smile and personalized treatment plan.