Is TMJ Serious? The Health Risks of Untreated TMJ Disorder
After being diagnosed with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), many of our Nashville, TN, patients ask, “Is TMJ disorder serious?” The answer is that although the condition is not life-threatening, it can have significant negative effects on your dental and overall health. These joints allow your jaw to move and are supported by a system of muscles and ligaments. When out of balance, TMD can cause pain, ringing in the ears, and bite problems. If left untreated, TMD side effects can worsen. The best way to prevent uncomfortable and adverse consequences of TMD is with effective treatment.
How Untreated TMJ Disorder Affects Your Physical Health
Signs of TMD include popping in the jaw, headaches, and jaw and neck pain. Treatment can alleviate these symptoms and prevent other health concerns that can compromise your quality of life, including:
- Bruxism: Bruxism is excessive teeth grinding or jaw clenching. In some cases, TMD causes bruxism, while in other instances it is the reverse. Regardless of which came first, the condition causes jaw stiffness, jaw pain, and potentially radiating discomfort in the head, neck, and upper back.
- Dental erosion: As bruxism worsens, patients will begin to suffer wear and tear to their teeth in the form of flattened chewing surfaces and small cracks.
- Headaches: Untreated TMD can trigger uncomfortable headaches, including migraines.
- Malnutrition: With worsening jaw pain, patients may alter their diet, avoiding hard or chewy foods. If the pain is severe enough, patients may restrict their diet to liquids and soft foods, which can lead to malnutrition in the long-term.
- Loss of jaw cartilage and bone mass: Without corrective measures, TMD can permanently damage the jaw. The cartilage that supports the joint can wear away, while the jawbone may erode. This causes painful friction in the jaw, and increases the chance for jaw dislocation.
- Hearing complications: Each of the jaw joints are located beneath your ears. Joint inflammation can then damage the auditory nerves connected to your ears, causing tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or hearing loss.
- Altered facial appearance: When severe TMD is left untreated for an extended period of time, jawbone erosion can visibly change the proportions of your face.
How Untreated TMD Can Affect Your Mental Health
Patients enduring the pain associated with TMD may find comfort in using pain management medications. Over time, patients may need to increase their dosage to combat the pain, which can have negative long-term effects. Additionally, a 2016 study revealed that anxiety and depression may cause TMD, or TMD may trigger certain psychiatric problems. The study concluded that anxiety and depression should be considered as part of TMD treatment for patients with risk factors for anxiety and depression.
TMD Treatment Options
Our practice offers two types of TMD treatment, depending on your symptoms and severity. Bruxism sufferers can be fit for a custom night guard that helps protect teeth from grinding and clenching during sleep.
Our practice offers two types of TMD treatment, depending on your symptoms and severity.
Our doctors can also administer medical BOTOX® treatments to relax the muscles supporting the jaw and suppress the tension associated with teeth grinding and clenching.
Find Relief Today
At Gulch Dental Studio, we can help you find relief from the muscle and joint pain caused by TMD. If you are suffering with TMD, or suspect you are, there is no reason to live with uncomfortable and worsening symptoms. Reach out to our office online to schedule your TMD treatment appointment.