More than 10 million people in the US suffer from temporomandibular joint or TMJ pain of varying intensities. 90% of those who see a TMJ specialist to seek treatment for extremely severe symptoms are women in their childbearing years. In this article, we will explore why women are more prone to TMJ pain as compared to men.
Why Women Are at More Risk?
Men and women have different natural levels of hormones, which essentially function as chemical messengers within the body. They have different hormones or different levels of similar hormones. If there are any hormonal changes or if they fluctuate above or below their normal level, there will be some side effects.
The hormone variations can be observed in people of different ages. However, the women who usually are at the highest risk of TMJ pain are those of childbearing age. This is because they have more pronounced fluctuations in their levels of estrogen and progesterone.
Stress is another factor that leads to TMJ pain. Women experience stress more physically than men. They are most likely to clench the jaw or grind the teeth. Moreover, stress negatively impacts the hormones and cause an imbalance. This can lead to TMJ pain or worsen the existing TMJ condition.
Women who suffer from nutritional deficiencies can also be at risk of TMJ disorder.
Do Hormones Affect TMJ?
The exact link between TMJ and hormones is unknown but there are studies done in this area. Researchers have found that women who take estrogen supplements or use certain forms of birth control are at increased risk of developing TMD disorder.
However, if the level of natural estrogen is high, it lessens the pain associated with the disorder.
Symptoms of TMJ Disorder
These are some of the signs you must look out for:
- Jaw pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Pain while chewing food
- Radiating pain in the face
- Stiff neck or neck pain
- Inability to open the jaw wide
- Popping of the jaw
- Muscle spasms
How to Relieve TMJ Pain?
Perform a simple self-assessment to become aware of your jaw function. You should be able to fit in at least 3 fingers between your front teeth when opening widely, and chew and swallow without difficulty. You should also be able to move your lower jaw side to side, without any pain. If you hear any joint noise or any sudden changes to the bite, it may be a sign of some issue in the joint. These may lead to TMJ disorder if you do not seek any treatment.
If you experience any of the TMJ symptoms, apply moist heat to the jaw, eat a soft diet or take over-the-counter medication.
TMJ treatment also includes orthodontic treatment which make changes to the jaw and teeth. The dentists may grind the teeth down, use splints that move the jaw to a different position or opt for surgery.
Passive jaw stretching, yoga or special jaw and TMJ relaxation exercises can also help in relieving some pain.
Do not wait until the pain becomes unbearable to visit your TMJ specialist.
Author Bio: Shen Chao is part of Dr. Joshua Hong’s Smile Clinic. While working for the Smile Clinic, he’s gained first hand experiences into the questions and concerns that dental patients have. He has been writing to inform people about various dental topics to help his readers improve their oral health. When he’s not working, you can find him on a hiking trail with his dog or having a Sunday cook-out with friends.