WHY DO WOMEN SUFFER FROM TMJ PROBLEMS MORE THAN MEN?
The quick answer is that women, on average, have smaller anatomy than men and their smaller anatomy does not handle the stresses on the joint system placed by other variations in anatomy and physiology as well as it does for men. (2019 American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons 0278-2391/19/30453-7) The most common main cause of TMD (temporomandibular dysfunction – a term used to group a wide variety of primarily muscular disorders of the jaw apparatus) is an imbalance in the way the jaws guide past each other in various movements such as side to side and front to back. This is primarily affected by abnormal tooth positons. The most typical of these is a jaw growth variation where the molar teeth are providing the guidance in the side to side jaw movements – what we call “balancing guidance.” The typical patient has a “reverse curve” to their bite. These problems can usually be addressed by orthodontic treatment alone, or in conjunction with jaw surgery (orthognathic surgery).
The truth is there are so many variables that come together from the joint anatomy, to the joint and capsule anatomy, to the jaw and facial anatomy, to the tissue receptors, to the chemistry of the joint structures, to psychological influences, to etc., etc. It is almost amazing that our jaw joints, in fact our bodies, function normally at all. Fortunately, our bodies have considerable ability to accommodate and compensate for abnormalities, injury, and disease processes.
When we consider internal joint diseases such as arthritis and autoimmune conditions we enter into another very wide realm of conditions and disorders that may have a significant effect on joint pain and joint problems. All of these things need to be fleshed out as we analyze joint conditions. On a very basic level my approach is to first make sure that the medical concerns are being dealt with and then deal with the physical problems addressing the obvious “big” problems first and keeping our eyes open to the other significant variables as we move forward.
If you have jaw joint problems discuss them with your dentist. Seek out consultations with a board certified orthodontist and oral surgeon. Get as much information as you can and watch out for “TMJ specialists.” Many of them do a good job, but there are way too many who are providing unnecessary therapies and treatment regimens without the likely chance of a solution.
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