Most people do not realize that pain in any part of the body can have a ripple effect. When a single part of your body is not well, the rest of the body also suffers. Further, an untreated condition may manifest in other problems. If you have TMJ disorder and are not treating it for some reason, you may eventually develop more health issues. This article will discuss the long-term effects of TMJ that cause serious upsets in the mind and body.
TMJ – Quick facts
- The temporomandibular joints connect your lower jaw (mandible) to the skull.
- There are two of them present in front of your ears.
- Since the TMJ is connected to the mandible, it helps in the movement of the jaw while speaking, chewing, singing, etc.
- You may have a TMJ disorder when you have trouble moving your jaws or feel pain in the surrounding muscles.
- The causes vary from misalignment of the upper and lower teeth, clenching of teeth, an infection, and even emotional trauma.
Why would a patient not treat a TMJ disorder?
The reasons may be quite a few.
- The pain may not be so intense.
- The patient may not know that the pain is due to TMJ disorder.
- The patient may temporarily put off the pain with OTC medications.
What might happen when TMJ is not treated?
Even when the pain is not intense, and you can carry about your daily life without much problem, you should seek expert care because untreated TMJ disorder MAY manifest in severe issues in the long term.
So, here, our focus is on the long-term effects one may encounter when TMJ is not treated.
Long-term effects that occur with TMJ
#1 Acute Jaw Pain
Compromised jaw movements and acute pain, if left untreated, can worsen the pain over time. Persistent pain can get you dependent on pain medications.
Further, opening and closing the mouth can be an annoyance because you cannot do anything without pain. The list is endless, from eating to talking, singing, and brushing your teeth.
#2 Migraine Headaches
You may be surprised to know that TMJ may trigger a migraine. A patient suffering from TMJ disorder may experience throbbing pain on either or both sides of the head.
The reason for the migraines blowing up is connected to grinding and clenching of the teeth. Teeth clenching and teeth grinding are common symptoms of TMJ disorder. The grinding causes a shift in the dynamic between the joints, muscles, and nerves aggravating migraine symptoms.
#3 Hearing problems and vertigo
TMJ disorder may cause hearing impairment. This is because the joints, muscles, and nerves connected to the skull are close to the ear canal – so the ears feel the effects.
As you may know, inflammation is the natural healing response. Anywhere there is a functional issue, your body triggers an inflammation to heal the injury or the problem.
You experience pain with TMJ due to inflammation; an untreated TMJ will result in chronic inflammation. This inflammation may affect the eustachian tubes in your ear canal, resulting in hearing limitation. In such cases, medical intervention is imperative.
Further, TMJ may lead to vertigo. Studies find a significant correlation between the conditions TMJ and vertigo. Hence, patients with dizziness due to vertigo should also be investigated for TMJ.
#4 Sleep disturbances
Sleeping disorders occur due to various reasons. Clenching or grinding your teeth is one of them causing sleep apnea. A TMJ might be the root cause of clenching your teeth during sleep.
The oxygen supply limited during sleep apnea can manifest in other problems such as hypertension, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats. Needless to say, limited sleep can leave you groggy and less alert during the day.
#5 Gut-Related Woes & Improper Digestion
Being unable to chew because of the disorder can cause an upset in digestion. The natural response would be to down the food with a drink and not chew at all. But unfortunately, this can result in poor digestion.
Inadequate chewing of food may also compromise the immune system. Because, as you may know, chewing your food well is crucial for your gut health that immensely impacts immune health.
Eventually, your digestive system becomes less efficient and may not produce adequate digestive enzymes, which can not only hamper absorption of nutrients but will reduce your overall health.
#6 Mental Health Issues
Dealing with an illness is never easy. A person diagnosed with TMJ disorder may also suffer from mental health issues.
You may have to live with constant pain when you don’t treat TMJ. When the illness of TMJ compromises your basic livelihood, it can trigger other impairments.
Work-life and personal life get affected, leading patients to anger, anxiety, panic attacks, frustration, depression, loneliness, lack of focus, and many other problems.
Lifestyle changes, a positive attitude, and a sunny disposition may help the patient not develop negative tendencies because of a physiological problem.
Managing the problem
Firstly, visit a doctor when you have jaw pain or pain in the muscles surrounding your jaw. Your doctor may prescribe some pain medications. Suppose your TMJ causes continual pain and disrupts eating, talking, etc. In that case, the specialist for TMJ pain treatment will work on a plan to help manage pain through medicine, massage therapy, and physiotherapy.
When you have other symptoms such as migraine, vertigo, or sleep apnea, the expert may suggest a series of tests to decide on the treatment options. The objective is to get to the root cause of the problem.
That said, when you notice a flare-up, try to limit the use of the jaw. Also, use a mouth guard to keep the joints, muscles, and nerves happy.
The bottom line
TMJ disorder may have many symptoms, including pain and may also lead to other conditions such as vertigo and sleep apnea. Managing the condition with treatment methods that work for you is the key. Maintain a journal, note down the triggers, and take diligent care to stay away from the triggers! More importantly, seek expert care when in need.
Edited by love4wellness | Images: canva.com