May is National Women’s Health Month, and Dr. Hawkins would like to discuss a disorder is nine times more likely to affect a woman than a man. Twenty years ago, most people had never heard of the condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), even though some research estimates that over 10 million Americans are affected. It wasn’t until celebrity cases such as Burt Reynolds combined with a concerted effort to change the way dentists are educated, that the public became more aware and informed about what could be affecting their day-to-day life. The term TMJ encompasses a large range of symptoms and manifestations, ranging from short-term, manageable discomfort to long-term, excruciating pain. One big question remains: why does it affect so many more women than men?
First, you may be wondering if this disease can help explain some of the difficulties you have with your mouth. Interestingly, many of the symptoms of TMD may be something that you deal with every day but never thought of as related to your jaw. They can include:
- Ringing in ears
- Neck aches or stiff neck
- Radiating pain in face
- Jaw aches
- Inability to open mouth wide
- Pain when chewing
- Sensitive teeth
- Tendency to dislocate or “lock” jaw
- Clicking, popping or grinding jaw
Women and TMD
Researchers are not conclusive on the exact causes, but the following are a number of conditions that may explain why so many TMD sufferers are women.
One reason more women than men are affected by TMD/ TMJ is pure and simple: there are differences in the bone and muscle density between the genders. We aren’t exactly sure which of these disparities are related to TMD and in what way, but it is certain that they play some role in the development of the disease.
Women are far more likely than men to brux, or grind and clench their teeth. This can happen during the day or while you sleep, but chances are you don’t even know you’re doing it. In fact, the vast majority of Americans grind their teeth at some point, it’s just a matter of to what degree.
Research has shown that women are more responsive to emotional imagery and stress in their daily lives than men. This is combined with the fact that hormones have a huge influence on where, and how significantly, stress and pain affect our bodies. Stress is the leading reason most people grind and clench their teeth both during the day and while they are sleeping.
Both migraines and TMD are affected by teeth grinding and clenching, and both disorders affect women more often than men. Although there is not yet a clear cause and effect relationship, the jaw clenching muscles in migraine sufferers tend to be about 70% larger than in those who don’t experience migraines. These enlarged muscles are certain to intensify the presence of TMD symptoms.
All joint disease can have oral manifestations, most notably, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Your mandibular is a joint just like your fingers, wrists and knees, and can be affected by disease in the same debilitating way. Women are more likely than men to suffer from these joint diseases, and therefore more disposed to the chronic joint deterioration, pain and diminished function associated with them.
While the outlook for TMD sufferers may sound grim, the reality is anything but. Here at Dr. Hawkins office we can design a treatment specifically for you to discover the causes and appropriate treatments of your TMD. If you are even a little concerned that you may have TMD, contact Hawkins Family Dentistry today. No matter what your problem, we can find a way to make your pain and discomfort disappear.
For more information about TMJs/TMDs, contact Dr. Hawkins, your Midlothian, VA dentist at Hawkins Family Dentistry today.