May is National Women’s Health Month, and Dr. Thompson would like to discuss a disorder that is nine times more likely to affect a woman than a man. Twenty years ago, most people had never heard of the condition known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD), even though some research estimates that over 10 million Americans are affected. It wasn’t until celebrity cases such as Burt Reynolds combined with a concerted effort to change the way dentists are educated, that the public became more aware and informed about what could be affecting their day-to-day life. The term TMJ encompasses a large range of symptoms and manifestations, ranging from short-term, manageable discomfort to long-term, excruciating pain. One big question remains: why does it affect so many more women than men?
First, you may be wondering if this disease can help explain some of the difficulties you have with your mouth. Interestingly, many of the symptoms of TMD may be something that you deal with every day but never thought of as related to your jaw. They can include:
– Ringing in ears
– Neck aches or stiff neck
– Radiating pain in face
– Jaw aches
– Inability to open mouth wide
– Pain when chewing
– Sensitive teeth
– Tendency to dislocate or “lock” jaw
– Clicking, popping or grinding jaw
Women and TMD
Researchers are not conclusive on the exact causes, but the following are a number of conditions that may explain why so many TMD sufferers are women.
One reason more women than men are affected by TMD/ TMJ is pure and simple: there are differences in the bone and muscle density between the genders. We aren’t exactly sure which of these disparities are related to TMD and in what way, but it is certain that they play some role in the development of the disease.
Women are far more likely than men to brux, or grind and clench their teeth. This can happen during the day or while you sleep, but chances are you don’t even know you’re doing it. In fact, the vast majority of Americans grind their teeth at some point, it’s just a matter of to what degree.
Research has shown that women are more responsive to emotional imagery and stress in their daily lives than men. This is combined with the fact that hormones have a huge influence on where, and how significantly, stress and pain affect our bodies. Stress is the leading reason most people grind and clench their teeth both during the day and while they are sleeping.
Both migraines and TMD are affected by teeth grinding and clenching, and both disorders affect women more often than men. Although there is not yet a clear cause and effect relationship, the jaw clenching muscles in migraine sufferers tend to be about 70% larger than in those who don’t experience migraines. These enlarged muscles are certain to intensify the presence of TMD symptoms.
All joint disease can have oral manifestations, most notably, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Your mandibular is a joint just like your fingers, wrists and knees, and can be affected by disease in the same debilitating way. Women are more likely than men to suffer from these joint diseases, and therefore more disposed to the chronic joint deterioration, pain and diminished function associated with them.
While the outlook for TMD sufferers may sound grim, the reality is anything but. Here at Dr. Thompson’s Portales office we can design a treatment specifically for you to discover the causes and appropriate treatments of your TMD. If you are even a little concerned that you may have TMD, contact Thompson Smiles today. No matter what your problem, we can find a way to make your pain and discomfort disappear.
For more information about TMJs/TMDs, contact Dr. Thompson, your Portales, NM dentist at Peter L. Thompson DDS today.
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“What a feeling – being able to smile any time I want without shielding my two front teeth with my hand anymore! I must admit, I didn’t know much about veneers until a friend of mine mentioned them to me. He piqued my curiosity, but it was only after I spoke to Dr. Thompson and his staff that I decided to go ahead with the procedure.
I have had horrible experiences with several previous dentists and the thought of extensive work in my mouth was not appealing to me. Especially because I have a very low tolerance for pain. I can honestly say that Dr. Thompson and his staff are one-of-a-kind, and truly the best out there! Not only are the very efficient and use state of the art procedures and materials, but they are compassionate and caring. I had never thought that a healthy smile would give me such a confidence boost, but it sure did! It used to be that people always told me that my eyes smiled when I spoke to them… Now I smile with much more than my eyes!”
“I first came to Dr. Thompson’s office in January of 2010. I had been having headaches due to muscular tension in my jaw. I suffer from a relatively rare genetic disorder called Amelogenesis imperfecta. This disorder affects the enamel formation in teeth, and I basically had no enamel on my teeth as a child and adult. Due to this I had to have all my teeth removed and replaced with dentures when I was only 25.
Dentures also present some problems: because I no longer had tooth roots in my jaw, my bone slowly began to deteriorate and atrophy, both in my upper and lower jaws. Eventually, by the age of 43, I developed severe migraine headaches due to how much my jaw had changed shape over time.
This is where Dr. Thompson came in. He diagnosed the problem quickly and told me that if I didn’t get implants soon my jaws would atrophy to the point where they could no longer support dentures or implants. Before getting implants, he was able to modify my dentures so my headaches went away within a matter of a day or so. What a relief!
Now, implants are expensive, but not as expensive as I thought they would be, and it is certainly better than the alternative of not having any teeth at all, dentures or otherwise. The implants had to be installed (for lack of a better term) over the course of 3 surgeries. The surgeries were completed in the mornings and I was sent home the same day.
Recovery was roughly 3-6 months between surgeries. It was over a year from the time I first visited Dr. Thompson until I got my final implants, but the final result has been great! My new implants are much more stable than my old dentures and I can now eat things that I never could before. I don’t have to fuss with using adhesive to secure my dentures anymore, and my headaches are a thing of the past! Plus my jaws have stopped shrinking due to the implants.
Dr. Thompson and his staff were very friendly and professional during the entire process. I have been to many dentists in the past, but Dr. Thompson is easily the best.”
“When I found Doctor Thompson, you could honestly say I was at my end. All hope of ever having a normal pain-free life was entirely out of reach and there was no way anyone could possibly help me. I had been repeatedly let down by doctors, specialists, and dentists I had been to. I was convinced these people were only there to hurt you and take your money, not actually sit down with you and help you!”
My teeth were beautiful when something really bad began to happen. My teeth began breaking and wearing away. I brushed and did everything I had always been taught to protect your teeth, but nothing seemed to be helping. I saw a billboard with Dr. Thompson. I cried to my husband every time I passed it…. I only wished that I could find someone who could be what he claimed to be. I passed that billboard many times and highly doubted the possibility that he could help me. The last dentist I had gone to hurt me so bad that I was not about to trust anyone else to touch me. So I lived with it.
The day came when decided I had to trust someone. I had just gone through two pregnancies that took all the nutrients I had, therefore speeding up the deterioration of my teeth. I lived in a dark blur of pain, looked at the ground when I spoke to people, and sipped on liquid Tylenol like it was water. ALL I wanted was to be able to be the best Mommy I could be. I was able to care for them and give them everything they needed, but I couldn’t do a lot of things. It was just too painful. I wanted more for my babies! I wanted them to see their Mommy feeling wonderful and able to look her best. I wanted to show them I could interact with other people and not be afraid.
That was all a dream until I finally broke down and decided that I would never know if Dr. Thompson could help me if I didn’t ask. So, one day in 2010, I made the call. The call that would change my perspective on people and their ability to help others. That day I met Micah, and what an angel she was for me! They knew I was terrified and they did their very best to comfort me. No one can truly understand what you are going through until they have lived it, but they tried harder than anyone I had ever seen. My report was as I knew it would be, they would not be able to save my teeth. I would have to have them all removed.
At 28 years old, it’s not exactly the highlight of your life, but when you have been in so much pain and a dentist looks at you, almost with tears in his eyes and tells you that he is going to help you, it will bring life back to your view on your situation. I realized at that moment that these people were my friends and they were going to be there all the way.
One short visit and I walked away with a new mouth. At first, it was totally foreign to me to have a complete set of teeth in my mouth. It was painful, and was not easy having to relearn a lot of things all over again. With their support and confidence, they helped me believe I could do everything right again. I am writing this a year later and I could not be happier with MY smile. I have my complete set of dentures with two implants on bottom that allow the bottom denture to snap in without any troubles at all. It was a very hard road, but one that I have no regrets taking. I have my new beautiful teeth…. I can smile, talk, sing, laugh, and eat. Most importantly I feel amazing. I can be the wife that my husband deserves and the Mommy that my two little girls need me to be, energetic and fun!
There is no greater feeling in the world than knowing I will never hurt like that ever again. Everything was worth it for me. I don’t mind sharing to the world that Dr. Thompson and his team were the most dedicated and outstanding people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They took care of me, and I will forever be grateful that I called them.”
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