Causes of Orofacial Pain and TMJ Disorders


What causes TMJ disorders?

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders 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.

Risk Factors

  • Physical

    • Injury
    • Arthiritis
    • Prolonged illness
    • Assymetric growth
    • Bite changes
    • Jaw size discrepancy
    • Weather
    • Dental work
    • Clenching or grinding

  • Biochemical

    • Hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism
    • Kidney problems
    • Pancreatic dysfunction
    • Adrenal glands
    • Liver dysfunction

  • Nutritional

    • Eating habits
    • Vitamins
    • Exercise habits
    • Sleep problems
    • Exposure to substances
    • History of drug use

  • Emotional

    • Grief or loss
    • Job change/loss
    • Family/social disruptions
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • History of abuse

Am I the only one?

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 suffers from 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.

Where do symptoms come from?

Your body is constantly adapting to changes in your environment. Each of us faces environmental and genetic stressors daily, and our bodies must compensate to maintain health. These stressors come from a variety of sources, some beginning even before birth and continue to appear throughout life. Each disturbance to your body system must be adjusted for to maintain balance and function. This constant adaptation requires energy and body resources. At some point, your body will reach its threshold. Symptoms appear when your individual capacity is overreached.

Why didn’t I have these symptoms before?

Symptoms are directly related to the amount of physical and mental stress we encounter day to day. These stressors usually have a cumulative effect. Even short-lived stress can accumulate over time. In addition, your body’s restorative resources will vary depending on your health and lifestyle. At any time, your own individual adaptive capacity may change. For you, symptoms may not have been present because your body was keep¬ing up with adaptive changes needed to maintain proper function. However, now your limit has been reached, or your capacity reduced, sending your health into a downward spiral of pain and discomfort. Sometimes, it may only take a small trigger to send you over the edge.

What caused my TMJ?

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what was the ultimate factor in causing your jaw to act up. Each of us continually adapts to changes in our environment. 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. This is why many stressors to our jaw go unnoticed. We take great care in understanding each patient's in the specific contributing factors that have led to their jaw dysfunction. Understanding this framework is critical to successful treatment and we can help you understand your specific causes during your initial consultation.

How long will symptoms last?

Symptoms last as long as your body’s stress is beyond its ability to compensate. Chronic conditions may develop when symptoms are allowed to remain long-term. This makes resolution of symptoms more complex because the effect on adaptive ca¬pacity is more lasting. Early intervention will typically provide quicker recovery. However, each individual is unique in both adaptive and restorative capacity, and resolution of symptoms will vary greatly between individ¬uals. Age, quality of sleep, body chemistry, nutrition, immune function, and general health will each influence your adaptive and restorative capacity.

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