Did you know that over 10 million Americans are estimated to have TMJ? Despite how common the disorder is, researchers are still struggling to pinpoint its cause. Studies have identified connections to chewing gum and oral piercings, and some statistics even suggest millennials may be suffering from the disorder at a higher rate — but these are just pieces of the puzzle. Another piece of the puzzle seems to lie with young people who smoke and suffer from allergies.
Research Links Smoking, TMJ Risk
A study from 2011 aimed to gather data on smoking and chronic pain. To do so, researchers investigated nearly 300 adult women based on the presence or absence of TMJ disorder, their history of smoking, and a few other factors.
The results were not just conclusive, they were staggering: Young women with temporomandibular joint disorders were a whopping four times more likely to be current or former smokers than women without the disorder, and three times more likely to have a history of allergy symptoms like hives, rashes, and sinus problems.
The implications of this study are threefold. First, it refuted the idea that nicotine, which is an analgesic, may be effective relief for the chronic pain associated with TMJ. Instead, the study showed that smokers experience changes in pain perception that could actually lead to greater sensitivity. Second, it revealed a link between TMJ and allergies that could help with diagnosis, research, and maybe even treatment. And finally, because the correlation with TMJ was weaker in former smokers than in current smokers, the study suggests that quitting smoking could reduce your risk of TMJ.
Of course, because the participants were all women, conclusions can only be drawn about women, but these results could very well apply to everyone. Only further research will tell.
Your Dentist Can Treat TMJ
Do you suffer from TMJ? An experienced TMJ dentist can help. Every TMJ case is a little different, so neuromuscular dentist Dr. Berry will meet with you for a consultation where he can learn more about your needs and design a treatment plan that suits them.
One option is a neuromuscular appliance, more commonly referred to as a bite splint. This appliance is much like the mouth guards worn by athletes, but instead of protecting your teeth from external trauma, it teaches your jaw muscles the correct way to move and hold your jaw. Over time, such an appliance can help retrain your jaw muscles to relieve the tension that is causing your TMJ symptoms.
If the neuromuscular appliance is effective, many will be happy wearing it at night for the rest of their lives. But some are interested in a more permanent solution, which can be provided through orthodontics or reconstructive dentistry. These can permanently reposition the bite to relieve symptoms.