Why are Women More Likely to Get TMJ Problems Than Men?
- Author Selsa Gonzalez
- Published August 16, 2022
- Word count 494
When it comes to women’s health, it’s important to remember that some health issues are more common in one gender than the other. A prime example is TMJ disorder, which involves a dysfunction of the joints attaching the lower jaw to the rest of the skull, often causing chronic pain.
Out of the 10 million people in the United States that suffer from a TMJ disorder, most of them tend to be women. Statistics say that women are diagnosed with TMJ disorder five times as often as men, and they’re about nine times as likely to be diagnosed with severe symptoms. Generally speaking, TMJ disorders tend to occur most often in women aged 18 to 44.
Why do so many women suffer from this condition? There are a few different theories. One is that hormones play a role. This is backed up by the fact that women tend to develop TMJ disorders during their childbearing years. Studies have shown that there are estrogen receptors in the jaw as well as the brain. As such, it may be that estrogen plays a role in how the body registers pain in the jaw, causing women to experience more acute TMJ symptoms.
Stress is another possible factor. Some research shows that women tend to report higher levels of anxiety and stress than men. This is significant because stress has been linked to unconscious clenching and grinding of the jaw – a common underlying cause of TMJ disorder.
Of course, differences in bone anatomy need to be taken into account as well. In males, the upper jaw bones tend to be longer, wider, and thicker. Exactly what this means for an individual’s risk for TMJ disorder is not completely clear at the moment, but it likely plays some role.
One last theory is that there is a gene variant that makes certain people more sensitive to pain. It’s theorized that this gene may be more common in women, and as such, it may be a factor in how they register TMJ-related pain.
As you can probably tell, TMJ disorder can be a complicated condition with many contributing factors. Luckily, treating it is not nearly as complex. There are several possible solutions for TMJ therapy that might be recommended depending on your situation. One particularly common treatment is wearing an occlusal splint provided by your dentist.
Simply put, an occlusal splint is an oral appliance that slightly adjusts the resting position of the jaw. This takes some of the pressure off the TMJ so that it has a chance to heal. It also serves as protection from bruxism, which is a very common contributing factor for TMJ disorders.
Regardless of what kind of treatment you get, it’s important to consult a dentist as soon as possible if you think you have symptoms of a TMJ disorder. Ignoring it will only lead to more pain and could put you at risk for lockjaw and other more serious symptoms.
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