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The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that provides a connection between the lower jaw and the temporal bone of your skull. Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) are the result of a problem with the jaw and surround facial muscles that control the ability to chew and move the jaw.
The actual cause of TMD is not actually fully known but NYC TMJ dentists, who are specialists in dealing with the dental treatments required to address the problems associated with TMJ, believe that symptoms generally surface as a result of issues relating to the muscles of the jaw or one of the components of the jaw itself.
What we know so far
It appears from the results of a seven year study carried out by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research that the risk of women suffering from chronic TMJD increases when they reach the age range between 18 and 44 year, but found that men in the same age did not appear to have the same risk profile.
Socio-economic status has often been found to have a profound effect in relations to conditions such as musculoskeletal pain and neuropathic pain but when it comes to TMJD, there is no evidence to suggest that socio-economic status has any bearing on your chances of developing the symptoms of TMJ.
The study also found a correlation between abnormal jaw function and teeth grinding or clenching. Future investigations will be focusing on whether the grinding and clenching that affects so many patients, is actually a cause or a consequence of the condition.
OPPERA shows the way
Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment (OPPERA), is a $19 million research project that is the first major study into the causes and effect of TMJ disorders.
TMJD is the general term used to describe pain and functional non-painful disorders that have the ability to influence and affect the muscles of mastication and also the temporomandibular joint. OPPERA is a study that is designed to identify the key risk factors and also to attempt to categorise the most common form of painful TMJD.
The primary focus of the research is to successfully identify the biological, genetic and psychological factors that lead to patients subsequently suffering from this particular muscle and joint pain.
Helping to determine treatment
If OPPERA can identify and create various sub classifications it will present an opportunity to tailor individual treatment programs for patients, using methods that are known to be the most effective for their specific symptoms.
There is currently more of a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment involving medications and muscle relaxants. Physical therapies and orthotic splints are also recommended as part of the treatment process for a good number of patients, as well as behavioural interventions and cognitive behavioural therapy.
All of these individual treatments and approaches can be effective for many patients but not all of them work for everyone.
This is why OPPERA is going to be helpful in providing a more targeted approach for TMJ sufferers in the future.
Megan Anders is a dental nurse of many years. When she has the time, she likes to research and write articles online. You can find them on various websites, such as dental and health blogs.