The most common age group to suffer from temporomandibular joint dysfunction is people — more women than men — from 20 to 40 years old. What is not well-understood, though, is that children can develop and experience the symptoms of TMJ dysfunction and that TMJ issues affect many seniors, too. The good news is that no matter when you begin to experience TMJ in NE Calgary, effective treatments are available.
Treatment options from a dentist near you include wearing a nightguard and making small adjustments to the biting surfaces of your teeth. If those small steps are insufficient to ease symptoms, a dentist in NE Calgary will refer patients to specialists for alternative treatments at any age. Here’s an outline of how TMJ disorders develop and affect people of all ages.
Children and teenagers
We use our teeth and jaws differently today than we did millennia ago. In the same way that we sometimes have to deal with the complications of now obsolete wisdom teeth, some TMJ dysfunction is a consequence of using our jaw joint differently while speaking and eating cooked and processed food than millennia of evolution ever anticipated. The natural growth and development of a child’s teeth and jaw can, in the context, contribute to TMJ-related symptoms, especially in children who: have misaligned teeth that affect how those teeth meet and influence the shape of the jaw; suffer respiratory illnesses interfering with airway development; or sustain jaw-related injuries in sports, play or accidents.
TMJ symptoms attributable to the growth and development of a child’s jaw often manifest in a child’s late teen years or early 20s, around the same time that those now older children are often undergoing orthodontic treatment. The urban myth that orthodontic treatment causes TMJ symptoms are wrong, but orthodontic work is often involved in addressing the same underlying issues that can cause TMJ symptoms in children and teenagers.
One of the most common causes of TMJ symptoms in adults is the habit of clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth, a condition called sleep bruxism often caused by stress. (Young children also suffer from sleep bruxism, though it’s a habit they often outgrow.) A second habit of which many adults (children, too) are guilty is using their teeth as tools in ways that put inordinate strain and pressure on their jaws. All those habits can contribute to the development or worsening of TMJ symptoms. Finally, TMJ symptoms are often triggered by injuries and trauma sustained by adults in motor vehicle accidents.
Seniors are not immune from the development of TMJ symptoms. Seniors can develop TMJ symptoms caused by many of the same factors that affect children and younger adults — misaligned teeth, sleep bruxism, bad habits, and trauma, for example. Further factors that affect many seniors and that can cause or exacerbate TMJ symptoms, though, are: worn down biting surfaces that change how teeth in each jaw meet and interact; and dentures that do not fit properly or take into account all neuromuscular factors affecting a senior’s mouth and jaws.
At any age, TMJ dysfunction can cause debilitating neck and jaw pain, jaw tightness and limited range of motion, shoulder pain, and headaches. Any person who experiences any of these symptoms should tell their dentist in NE Calgary about them, even if they don’t seem to involve their teeth directly. The muscles in your jaw, face, mouth, and neck are part of a complex system of tissues and forces. Dentists are experts in many of those elements and forces and can help you receive appropriate TMJ treatment near you.