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JawPainDisordersCouldbeRelatedtoOtherBodyConditions

As many as 36 million adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of chronic jaw pain. What’s more, many of these may also experience other painful conditions like arthritis or chronic fatigue in other parts of their body.

Chronic jaw pain is actually a group of difficult to define disorders collectively referred to as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD or also TMD). TMD not only refers to pain symptoms of the temporomandibular (jaw) joints but also of the jaw muscles and surrounding connective tissue. Most physicians and dentists agree TMD arises from a complex range of conditions involving inheritable factors, gender (many sufferers are women of childbearing age), environment and behavior.

A recent survey of approximately 1,500 TMD patients found that nearly two-thirds of them also suffered from three or more related health problems like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, headaches, depression and problems sleeping. The understanding of TMD’s connection with these other conditions is in its early stages of research, but there’s avid interest among healthcare providers to learn more and possibly devise new treatments for TMD in coordination with these other related conditions.

In the meantime, TMD patients continue to respond best with the traditional approach to treatment, including physical therapy, thermal (hot or cold) compresses to the area of pain, medication and modifying the diet with more easier to chew foods. In extreme cases, jaw surgery may be recommended; however, success with this approach has been mixed, so it’s advisable to get a second opinion before choosing to undergo a surgical procedure.

Hopefully, further study about TMD and its connection with other conditions may yield newer treatments to ease the pain and discomfort of all these conditions, including TMD. You can stay up to date on these and other developments for coping with the discomfort of TMD at www.tmj.org and through your healthcare provider team.

If you would like more information on TMD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Chronic Jaw Pain and Associated Conditions.”

ChronicJawPainWhattodoAboutTMJDisorders

Many people suffer from problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ); this can result in chronic pain and severely limit the function of the jaw. Yet exactly what causes the problems, how best to treat them… and even the precise number of people affected (estimates range from 10 million to 36 million) are hotly debated topics.

There are, however, a few common threads that have emerged from a recent survey of people who suffer from temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD). Some of them are surprising: For example, most sufferers are women of childbearing age. And two-thirds of those surveyed say they experienced three or more associated health problems along with TMJD; these include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic headaches, depression, and sleep disturbances. The links between these threads aren’t yet clear.

The survey also revealed some interesting facts about treating TMJD. One of the most conservative treatments — thermal therapy (hot or cold compresses) — was found by 91% to offer the most effective relief of symptoms. By contrast, the most invasive treatment├ó??surgery├ó??was a mixed bag: A slightly higher percentage reported that surgery actually made the condition worse compared to those who said it made them better.

So what should you do if you think you may have TMJD? For starters, it’s certainly a good idea to see a dentist to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. If you do have TMJD, treatment should always begin with some conservative therapies: moist heat or cold packs, along with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications if you can tolerate them. Eating a softer diet, temporarily, may also help. If you’re considering more invasive treatments, however, be sure you understand all the pros and cons — and the alternatives — before you act. And be sure to get a second opinion before surgery.

If you would like more information about temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD), call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Chronic Jaw Pain And Associated Conditions” and “Seeking Relief from TMD.”