According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 10 million people suffer from TMJ problems at any given time in the United States. Pain in the jaw region is not uncommon and can occur due to a number of causes. However, most TMJ discomfort is temporary and mild. It is when the pain becomes severe, debilitating and prolonged that it becomes a cause for concern.
There are several known risk factors that can make an individual more susceptible to TMJ disorders or diseases, such as:
- Gender: While both men and women may suffer from TMJD, women account for 90 percent of those seeking treatment. It is also widely accepted that women are more likely than men to seek treatment for any health issue in general. Beyond this explanation, however, research is being conducted to determine a possible connection between hormones and TMJD. Some have posited that men and women process pain signals differently, although no evidence has proven to support this claim.
- Age: Individuals with TMJD are most likely to be between the ages of 30 and 50.
- Structural deformity: If the facial bones of the jaw and lower facial region are deformed, the way the jaw works and how the teeth come together can be adversely affected. Inflammation, degeneration, dislocation and pain can all result from this type of deformity.
- Injury: A trauma or injury to the jaw area can translate to long-term issues. TMJD may develop if an injury causes dislocation of the jaw joint or movement of the disc and if muscles of opening and closing the jaw are weakened or strained, among other complicating jaw conditions.
- Stress: A common contributing factor in many health conditions, the presence of high levels of stress put an individual at higher risk of experiencing TMJD. Stress may cause increased muscle tension in the jaw, face and neck, and may also cause a person to grind the teeth or clench the jaw muscles.
- Other diseases: Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, sleep disorders and chronic fatigue syndrome frequently occurs among those with TMJD. The relationship between TMJD and other diseases and disorders is unclear, but it is thought TMJD symptoms often occur due to a variety of health factors happening at once.