Disorders and ailments associated with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), known as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD), cause pain around the bone and muscles surrounding the joint between the mandible and temporal bone. When considering case numbers, TMJ disorders have shown to be quite common in adults. In 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimated over 10 million Americans were afflicted with TMJ. About 10% to 15% of all adults are affected by the disorder, but about only 5% seek the proper treatment to fix TMJ. Interestingly, females tend to develop TMJD more than men in their respective age groups. For example, 18% of females felt the pains of progressing TMJD compared to the 10% of males in the 25 to 44-year age group. Though there are physiological differences between men and women that have been associated with TMJD development disparity, such as increased female sex hormones, Bagis and colleagues in 2012 ruled that the data was not strong enough to deduce a conclusion. Citing recent large-scale studies in both Europe and the United States, Yadav and colleagues state that TMJD prevalence is highest within the age bracket of 45 to 64 years old. This finding is associated with the trend of increased TMJ tissue degeneration and older age. Huggins and Wright suggest that pain from the disease is not chronic as reported pain from TMJD declines in the post-65-year age group; however, 45% to 70% of adults within that age group have shown joint degeneration through radiography. Fortunately, the pain and other symptoms stemming from TMJD resolve within 5 to 8 years after the first diagnosis, but 15% of TMJD patients still experience disease and pain progression.
For those who suffer with TMJ disorders, they can find themselves facing limited movement of the jaw, which hinders their ability to speak or eat for example [Savetekin]. A patient can be placed into one or multiple of these categories: myofascial pain, internal derangement of the joint, or arthritis [NIDCR]. In fact, “up to 70% of cases, TMJD are accompanied by malpositioning of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disc”, which is in the category of ‘internal derangement of the joint’ [Murphy]. Although these disorders are very common, researchers have yet to pinpoint a specific cause of TMJD. For now, it seems that a combination of trauma, genetic and psychological factors as well as occlusion could be the cause [Perez]. There are various symptoms that one can look out for though. Radiating pain in the face, jaw, or neck, jaw muscle stiffness, limited movement or locking of the jaw, painful clicking, popping or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth, and a change in the way the upper and lower teeth fit together are just some of the symptoms that are common in those who suffer with TMJ disorders [NIDCR]. In an attempt to diagnose you, you may be asked by your doctor to open and close your jaw or press areas around your jaw to see your jaw’s range of motion or see where it hurts the most. If they think that it’s serious, your doctor may ask you to get dental x-rays, CT scan, and an MRI [Mayo Clinic].