This Thursday is The Great American Smokeout, an annual holiday created by the American Cancer Society. Every third Thursday in November, the organization encourages smokers to give up their harmful habit, even if only for a single day (but hopefully for a lifetime!). You probably already know that using tobacco products can impair your lung function, raise your risk for various forms of cancer, make you more likely to have a stroke, and more. What you might not have realized is that smoking can also have a major impact on your TMJs, or temporomandibular joints. These important bands of tissue connect your temples with your lower jaw so you can eat, speak, and smile comfortably. At MedCenter TMJ, we help patients suffering from TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) manage their conditions and live healthier lives. In honor of The Great American Smokeout and as part of our commitment to improving our patients’ wellbeing, we’ve devoted this week’s blog to the link between smoking and TMJ function.
Numerous studies have clearly connected smoking and TMD. Consider the following:
- In 2009, Reuters reported on TMD research done on more than 600 patients at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. For patients whose “TMJ was caused by arthritis or other pain in the joint…current tobacco users were between four and five times more likely to have moderate to severe pain.”
- The TMJ Association, Ltd. highlighted a 2012 study: “New research by University of North Carolina Chapel Hill investigators shows that young women with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) are four times more likely to be current or former smokers than women of any age who have no clinical signs of TMD.”
- In 2010, a group of dentists and scholars published a study in The Journal of Craniomandibular Practice on smoking and TMD. After studying 352 clinical charts, they concluded: “cigarette smoking can be considered a relevant factor affecting the intensity of TMD pain. Therefore, control of smoking habits should be considered for the treatment of TMD patients.”
Explaining the Link
Why might smoking worsen or help to bring about TMD? At MedCenter TMJ, we’re well aware that your overall health has a major impact on your TMJs. Diet, hormones, stress, sleep deprivation, and a number of other lifestyle factors can affect your TMJ function. While the particular causes for the link between smoking and TMD are still somewhat unclear, tobacco use may intensify TMD symptoms because it is correlated with sleep issues and emotional stress. Smoking also diminishes your body’s overall immune function, making it difficult for your joints to operate or heal properly. Nicotine in particular can constrict important blood vessels in your joints and surrounding tissues. In addition, the physical motion of smoking can stress your jaw or pull your joints out of alignment.
Relieving Your Symptoms
Are you a smoker with TMD? You may be able to alleviate your symptoms by:
- Using warm compresses.
- Wearing one of our custom-made oral appliances.
- Eating a soft food diet.
- Coming in to our office for more nuanced diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
- Ceasing use of tobacco products. WebMD suggests that eating a healthier diet, gradually weaning yourself off of smoking, turning to friends and family for assistance, rewarding yourself for your successes, and other techniques may help you kick this habit for good.
Stop Smoking and Start Treating Your TMD
Celebrate The Great American Smokeout by making a concerted effort to quit smoking. Stopping this habit could markedly improve your general and oral health. To learn more about TMD or schedule a consultation with one of our doctors, contact MedCenter TMJ today.