It should come as no surprise that OPPERA (Orofacial Pain Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment), an unprecedented and large TMJ study, will likely transform our understanding of the condition and overturn many of the things we thought we knew.
Myth: TMJ Is Rare
One of the most important insights of this large study is that TMJ is probably three times more common than we thought. People recruited for OPPERA didn’t have TMJ. But over the course of the study, about 3.9% of people developed TMJ every year, until a total of 9.5% of the population had been affected. This is a much larger proportion of the population than was previously suspected.
The member of the National Institutes of Health that supported this study, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), maintained that there were about 10 million TMJ sufferers in the US, or about 3.3% of the population, which we will obviously want to revise based on these new numbers.
And the numbers are likely to get higher. TMJ incidence was strongly correlated with age, so as our population tends to age, we are likely to see even more people with the condition.
Myth: TMJ Mostly Affects Women
Based on earlier studies, it was commonly assumed that women were much, much more likely to develop TMJ. The numbers were hugely disproportionate, with some people saying that perhaps six times more women suffered from TMJ than men. Studies based on treatment.
However, this new study shows that women were actually only slightly more likely to suffer TMJ than men. Why previous studies have shown such a marked difference may relate to other gender differences.
Studies based on treatment patterns have said that 90% of people seeking treatment for TMJ were women in their childbearing years, but that doesn’t mean that this is the same as the people who are actually suffering the condition. Instead, it may just mean that women are more likely to seek treatment for TMJ, while men are more likely to go without treatment.
Myth: TMJ Sufferers Are Hypochondriacs Looking for Treatment
Another myth about TMJ sufferers is that these are people with few symptoms who are looking for treatment for non-conditions. However, this new data shows that there are likely many people out there suffering with TMJ who aren’t actually getting treated. This is likely to be especially true of men with TMJ, who are less likely to see their dentist anyway.
It’s important that you get treatment if you’re experiencing jaw pain or regular headaches that you think might be associated with a dysfunctional jaw. If you know someone with these symptoms, recommend that they seek treatment.
To learn whether TMJ might be affecting you, please call (303) 691-0267 at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver today for an appointment.