How did I get TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint disorder isn’t a sudden event, such as injuring your knee. It can start in childhood, and can be evidenced by mouth breathing. Mouth breathing is often a sign of a misaligned jaw. Because the tongue needs to sit lower when a person breaths through his or her mouth, this can affect the development of the upper jaw in a child, leading the jaw to develop in the shape of a V unlike the U-shape it would normally be.
Those would be congenital problems with bite balance and alignment. But often TMJ develops as a result of stress and nightly teeth clenching during sleep. Traumatic injury to the jaw or jaw joints can lead to TMJ. Research also shows a genetic tendency.
Causes of TMJ
- Unbalanced bite – A bad bite can result in soreness and can be a leading cause of TMJ. The obvious signs include an under-bite or an over-bite. An unbalanced bite could result from one cause, or a combination of factors. Allergies during childhood, thumb sucking, old dentistry that needs to be replaced, or the shifting of teeth due to tooth loss can all lead to a bad bite.
- Airway issues – Airway issues can cause TMJ pain, an improperly formed jaw, and bite issues. If you have an unbalanced bite, your tongue can’t sit where it should, which as a result can block air from getting to your lungs. Improper breathing may be due to childhood allergies. When a child is constantly congested, the tongue drops down allowing air to pass over it. The tongue is no longer in balance and the upper jaw’s growth changes over time. This can result in a compromised breathing airway.
- Skull deformation – Pressure and force exerted on a baby’s head during birth affects the shape and development of the skull and the bones in the head and face. If there is a misalignment of the bones, muscles, or ligaments, this can alter the development of the TMJ. It can also result in the misalignment of jaws and skull bones, causing an unbalanced bite.
- Genetics – The fact is that your jaw structure, teeth positioning, and entire facial composition are inherited. This can include the sensitivity to your environment leading to allergies and congestion. If you inherited a small jaw or if your teeth are too large to fit your mouth, the result is a bad bite and misaligned jaw.
- Injury or trauma – An injury or trauma to your jaws from an accident or any intense physical impact, can lead to damage to your muscles or joints. Any time your body absorbs the impact of a serious blow, it transfers throughout the rest of your body, altering the function of the muscles and joints in your head, neck, and face. This results in discomfort and irritation related to TMJ.
- Unbalanced dentistry – Even if you have gone through orthodontic work to straighten your smile, there could still be invisible problems. You can have a perfectly straight set of teeth but still be suffering from TMJ symptoms and have a misaligned bite.
Who is at risk for developing TMJ?
There are no reliable statistics on the number of Americans who have TMJ, but it is estimated to be over 10 million people. TMJ is more common in women than men. Stress is a known risk factor. If a person is under an inordinate amount of stress he or she may begin clenching their teeth during the day and grinding them at night. This begins a sequential effect of stressed muscles, damaged teeth, and chronic pain. There also appears to be a genetic factor in developing the condition.