Twenty years ago, most people had never heard of the condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), even though some research estimates that over 10 million Americans are affected.
The frequent headaches, muscle pain and popping sound you hear when you open and close your mouth is called TMJ disorder. The good news is you’re not alone. Over 10 million people in the U.S. experience TMJ disorder, and the majority of that number is women; in fact, women in their childbearing years account for 90% of all TMJ sufferers. Although doctors aren’t sure why more women seek dental treatment for this disorder than men, there is research to help us understand it.
One reason more women than men are affected by TMD/ TMJ is pure and simple: there are differences in the bone and muscle density between the genders. We aren’t exactly sure which of these disparities are related to TMD and in what way, but it is certain that they play some role in the development of the disease.
Women are far more likely than men to brux, or grind and clench their teeth. This can happen during the day or while you sleep, but chances are you don’t even know you’re doing it. In fact, the vast majority of Americans grind their teeth at some point, it’s just a matter of to what degree.
Research has shown that women are more responsive to emotional imagery and stress in their daily lives than men. This is combined with the fact that hormones have a huge influence on where, and how significantly, stress and pain affect our bodies. Stress is the leading reason most people grind and clench their teeth both during the day and while they are sleeping.
Both migraines and TMD are affected by teeth grinding and clenching, and both disorders affect women more often than men. Although there is not yet a clear cause and effect relationship, the jaw clenching muscles in migraine sufferers tend to be about 70% larger than in those who don’t experience migraines. These enlarged muscles are certain to intensify the presence of TMD symptoms.
All joint disease can have oral manifestations, most notably, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Your mandibular is a joint just like your fingers, wrists and knees, and can be affected by disease in the same debilitating way. Women are more likely than men to suffer from these joint diseases, and therefore more disposed to the chronic joint deterioration, pain and diminished function associated with them.
But the great news is that with proper preventative care and prompt treatment TMJ disorder can be effectively treated and managed. Give us a call for more information or to discuss your case in greater detail—