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Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Syndrome (cont.)

What Are Risk Factors for TMJ Syndrome?

Ongoing studies conducted by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, are focused on evaluating risk factors for TMJ syndrome in healthy individuals. Initial results have identified a group of physiological, psychological, sensory, and genetic and nervous system factors that may increase the risk of developing TMJ syndrome. New findings will allow us to better understand the onset and progression of TMJ syndrome. Furthermore, novel ways to diagnose and treat the condition can be developed. Below are some risk factors that have been identified:

Gender: Women are at higher risk of developing TMJ syndrome compared to men. Additionally, there may be differences in how women and men respond to pain and to pain medications.

Age: Studies of individuals between the ages of 18-44 show that the risk to develop TMJ conditions increases for women. This has been noted especially for women during their childbearing years. For men ages 18-44, there was no increased risk.

Pain tolerance: Studies suggest that people who are more sensitive to mildly painful stimuli have an increased risk for developing TMJ syndrome.

Genetics: There is some indication that genes related to stress response, psychological health, and inflammation may increase the risk for TMJ syndrome.

Chronic pain: Those who suffer from chronic pain conditions such as lower back pain and headaches may be at increased risk for TMJ syndrome.

What Are TMJ Syndrome Symptoms and Signs?

  • Pain in the facial muscles and jaw joints may radiate to the neck or shoulders. Joints may be overstretched and muscle spasms can occur. The pain may occur with talking, chewing, or yawning. Pain usually appears in the joint itself, in front of the ear, or it may move elsewhere on the, face, scalp or jaw and lead to headaches, dizziness, and even symptoms of migraines.
  • TMJ syndrome may cause ear pain, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and hearing loss. Sometimes people mistake TMJ pain for an ear problem, such as an ear infection, when the ear is not the problem at all.
  • When the joints move, they may produce sounds, such as clicking, grating, and/or popping. Others may also be able to hear the clicking and popping sounds. This means the disc may be in an abnormal position. Sometimes no treatment is needed if the sounds do not cause pain.
  • The face and mouth may swell on the affected side.
  • The jaw may lock in a wide open position (indicating that it is dislocated), or it may not open fully at all. Also, upon opening, the lower jaw may deviate to one side. Some people may experience favoring one painful side or the other by opening the jaw awkwardly. These changes could be sudden. The teeth may not fit properly together, and the bite may feel odd.
  • Muscle spasms associated with TMJ syndrome may cause difficulty swallowing.
  • TMJ syndrome can also cause headache and dizziness, potentially leading to nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Some individuals with TMJ syndrome may have a history of poor dentition or emotional distress.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/18/2017

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome »

TMJ, or temporal mandibular joint, is the synovial joint that connects the jaw to the skull.

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