What the Results of OPPERA Mean for Getting Treatment From a TMJ Dentist

TMJ Dentist
As a TMJ dentist, we provide relief for those suffering from jaw and neck pain as a result of TMJ.  This condition impacts a wide variety of people and at times the condition will come and go while for others, the symptoms gradually increase until the discomfort is so severe that they cannot even open their jaw.  Fortunately, acute TMJ typically doesn’t happen overnight.  There are warning signs, and if you pay attention to them you can get the treatment you need before getting into an urgent situation.

In our office, we have found that a common trigger for TMJ is times of high stress.  When our patients are feeling stressed or full of anxiety, they may grind or clench their teeth at night, putting stress on the temporomandibular joint.  This leads to tension and discomfort that often manifests itself as jaw pain or a headache in the morning.  Those with mild TMJ, may find that the discomfort comes and goes based on what is happening in their life and even what they ate the day before, as food that is difficult to chew may also trigger the symptoms.

Medical science has been at a loss for identifying all of the potential triggers for the condition.  While we have witnessed stress as a contributing factor, there is more to the story, and Dr. Gary Slade and Dr. William Maixner have set out to find the answers.  They launched a study titled OPPERA in 2006 and have been following 2,737 healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 44.  All of the participants did not have symptoms of TMJ when the study started but since then an average of four percent of the participants have developed the condition every year.  Considering that these individuals were healthy at the start, the numbers could be even higher for those with other health conditions. As a TMJ dentist, we treat people of all ages with this condition and are interested in what the study will find regarding why TMJ starts in the first place.

Some of the initial results have found that those with higher somatic awareness are more likely to experience symptoms of TMJ.  This is science’s way of describing those that are more aware of what is happening internally and externally.  While previously perceived as, not being as “tough” as their peers, it turns out that there is a biological and neurological reason some people are more sensitive to irritations than others.  People with higher somatic awareness may also be more sensitive to smells and sensations of hot or cold.  This group even feels an itch more strongly than their peers.  With this in mind, if you are sensitive to environmental conditions and develop the first signs of TMJ, you should schedule an appointment with our TMJ dentist right away so that we can treat the condition before it escalates into something that negatively impacts your lifestyle.  By giving you an oral appliance to wear at night, we can help to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of TMJ, and you may need no further treatment.

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