It’s an exciting time for TMJ patients and dentists. After decades of fighting to get their condition recognized by their doctors, we are now seeing the results of the first large-scale population study of TMJ. OPPERA, the Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment, has just concluded its phase 2, and has reported numerous insights into TMJ’s causes and comorbidities. It has also laid the groundwork for future genetic studies that may give us ever-better treatments for the condition.


OPPERA is a large, multifaceted population study of TMJ. Beginning with an initial population of 3263 patients, none of whom had TMJ at the outset of the study. Patients were followed for a  median of 2.8 years to see who developed TMJ and potentially find out why. It was the first large-scale prospective risk factor assessment in chronic pain.

What the Results Tell Us

We’ve written previously about some results from OPPERA, such as preliminary risk factor analysis, and early symptoms description. However, what’s striking about the second stage results is how comprehensive they are, and the number of aspects considered in the analysis. OPPERA looked at:

  • TMJ symptoms
  • Age, gender, and other demographic factors
  • Characteristics of the head, neck, and mouth
  • Pain sensitivity
  • General health factors
  • Genetic factors
  • Psychological factors

They found that about 4% of subjects developed TMJ each year, and that, of the 202 factors considered, several of them had a significant impact on the risk of developing TMJ.

They found that general health factors made the largest contribution to your risk, followed by psychological factors and characteristics of your head, neck, and mouth. In particular, any type of jaw pain made it much more likely that you would develop TMJ.

Several genetic factors were also linked to developing TMJ, but future research is needed to determine their contribution.

TMJ Is Complex and So Is TMJ Treatment

Another insight of the OPPERA study is that TMJ isn’t uniform for all people. There are many potential profiles of TMJ sufferers, and because of this, there are many TMJ treatments needed to give optimal results.

If you have been suffering with TMJ, but haven’t found relief with your current treatment plan, we can help. Please call (303) 691-0267 at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver for an evaluation.