We are in the midst of a revolution of our understanding of TMJ because of the large-scale OPPERA study, which looked at nearly 3000 people at four locations. These people had not been diagnosed with TMJ, but they were followed for three years to learn more about TMJ’s onset and symptoms. We’ve previously talked about the study’s revelation of the connection between TMJ and IBS, but more recently published results show additional insights, especially into how TMJ first develops and is diagnosed.

Self-Reported TMJ Symptoms of Significance

To determine which symptoms were most likely to predict a diagnosis of TMJ, researchers divided symptoms into two categories: those you report to your dentist and those that your dentist can determine during an exam.

You might think that the dentist-discovered symptoms were more important, but you’d be wrong. It turns out that self-reported TMJ symptoms were of more significance. If you think about it, though, this makes sense. You live with your jaw 24 hours a day, you know how it’s supposed to function, and you notice when it’s not working as it should. Your dentist, on the other hand, has only a short exam to judge the state of your jaw.

In particular, it was found that if you reported these conditions you were most likely to get TMJ:

  • Bruxism (tooth clenching) and other types of oral parafunction
  • Facial pain with significant life impact
  • Jaw joint noises or locking
  • Symptoms in your face or jaw that haven’t been linked to a cause or disorder

Because these symptoms are of vital importance in predicting the onset of TMJ, it’s important to report these and other related symptoms to your dentist.

Clinical Exam Signs of Significance

Your dentist may also notice symptoms during your exam that can predict onset of TMJ, including:

  • Pain with jaw movement
  • Pain when touching the jaw, neck, or upper back

OPPERA data showed that some of the things we look for in TMJ aren’t as significant, such as tooth wear and jaw joint noise.

Multivariate Analysis of Predictors

When researchers put all these variables together in a multivariate analysis to determine which were likely the best predictors of TMJ, they isolated:

  • Symptoms in the face and jaw that haven’t been linked to a cause
  • Pain with jaw movement
  • Teeth clenching and oral parafunction

as the symptoms most likely to indicate you have TMJ. This combination of both types of factors highlights the importance again of sharing symptoms with your dentist.

Do You Have TMJ?

If you are experiencing symptoms that  make you think you may be suffering from TMJ, please call (303) 691-0267 at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver today for an evaluation.