Causes of Orofacial Pain and TMJ Disorders

What causes TMJ disorders?

“TMJ” refers to the temporomandibular joint. Disorders of the TMJ can be caused by a variety of factors, frequently overlapping one another. Some of these factors are present early in life, increasing one’s risk for developing the disorder. Other factors are introduced later in life, and may even precipitate the disorder directly. Some factors merely perpetuate the disorder and keep the individual limited in their function. The multifactorial nature of TMJ disorders complicates diagnosis, treatment, and research in the field. Understanding the risk factors and causes for the disorder can help you understand how to best manage your condition.

Am I the only one with a TMJ problem?

You are not alone! A significant portion of the population has issues with their jaw joint.  Studies estimate probably around 10% of the population have a TMJ disorder. It is important to understand that not all TMJ disorders are the same. The spectrum ranges from mild to severe, temporary to chronic. The specific causes of your TMJ problem may relate to the nature of the severity and chronicity of the condition.

Who gets TMJ disorders?

TMJ disorders are not partial to any particular group. It can occur in all age groups and in varying degrees of severity. People who suffer from TMJ disorders typically have multiple predisposing factors which make them more likely to develop the disorder. When enough of these factors combine to exert a load beyond the adaptive capacity of the person, we begin to see the disorder and its symptoms.

What puts me at risk of having a TMJ disorder?

Many factors contribute to the cause of orofacial pain and TMJ disorders. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Physical injury
  • Changes to your bite
  • Emotional stress
  • Jaw size discrepancy
  • Asymmetric growth
  • Arthritis
  • Weakened immune system
  • Prolonged illness
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth
  • Extensive dental work
  • Low quality sleep
  • Nutrition imbalance
  • Changes in hormone levels
  • Developmental disturbances

What caused my TMJ disorder?

Each of us continually adapts to changes in our environment.  Each disturbance to your jaw must be adjusted for to maintain balance and function. Each adaptation requires energy and restorative capacity.  At some point, your body will reach its limit. The disorder appears when your individual capacity is overreached, and your jaw starts to act up.

Many stressors to our jaw go unnoticed. One of the purposes of our exam is to educate the patient in the specific contributing factors that have led to their jaw dysfunction. The cause of your disorder cannot always be pin-pointed to one issue. However, the framework becomes much clearer as we show you the factors contributing to your disorder, and why you have become susceptible to the condition while others have not. If you can understand the reasons behind your TMJ disorder, successful management becomes achievable.

What is Orofacial Pain?

Orofacial pain refers to any pain in the face, head, or neck, and includes TMJ pain. It is important to understand that many other reasons exist for pain in the head and neck area, outside of TMJ problems. The site of the pain is not always the source of the pain. Pain originating from nerves, skeletal muscles, blood vessels, glands, skin, or teeth can all refer pain to the face. Causes of pain may be infection, tissue trauma, nerve disease, musculoskeletal problems, psychophysiologic effects, autoimmune phenomena, or even cancer. Sometimes these conditions go undetected due to inadequate examination or diagnostics. Our goal is to help you get to the root of your pain, particularly when multiple overlapping conditions confound the condition.

If you are aware of risk factors, or are experiencing TMD symptoms, please don’t hesitate to contact our office for a new patient consultation or request an appointment.

Treatment of TMJ Disorders >>