Although temporomandibular joint pain is common among adults aged 25 years and older, it is bound to develop sooner especially amongst teenagers. A majority of the cases develop during childhood due to injuries as well as constant breathing through the mouth which is associated with allergies. Thus, most teenagers live with TMJ as it remains undiagnosed, disrupting their lives without them realizing it. For this reason, it is advisable that TMJ evaluations be conducted regularly in order to detect the problem early on before it becomes obtrusive.
What Causes Temporomandibular Disorders in Teenagers?
A number of factors are responsible for the development of TMJ disorders in teenagers. They include the following:
- Adding or removing braces – In most cases, braces are given between the age of 12 and 16 years, a time when the mouth is still developing.They are able to correct any existing alignment issues. Consequently, orthodontic work tends to change your bite while the re-alignment of your teeth continues. The change in the bite may result in TMJ. Unconscious clenching of teeth, following an orthodontic visit, especially when the teeth are sore can also result in a TMJ. You are advised to pay attention to your jaw joint during your orthodontic work to be able to identify any problems that may arise.
- Childhood mouth breathing – This is common if you suffer from allergies that make it impossible for you to breath using your nose, so you end up breathing through your mouth for long periods. Breathing through the mouth constantly when the jaw is yet to fully develop can result in the formation of a bad bite.
- Tooth grinding – This is another cause of TMD in teenagers that is triggered by exposure to stressors like exams, school projects as well as extracurricular activities. In fact, teens who are faced by projects and exams at the end of the year are more likely to experience TMJ pain compared to other times. Frequent grinding of teeth can cause the temporomandibular joint to be fatigued in addition to the development of a bad bite.
- Injuries suffered during sports are also likely to result in the development of TMJ in teens. That is, whether they are participating in cheerleading or contact sports, such as football players are always faced at the risk of developing TMJ.
Factors that Contribute to TMJ
Certain factors are known to trigger the development of TMJ. One such factor is impact injury especially if it directly affects your chin owing to the many tumbles and falls you may experience. Various dental conditions that affect the alignment of your teeth like extended overjet, open bite, missing back teeth and cross bite are linked with the development of TMDs.
There are also habits that contribute to the occurrence of TMD like tooth clenching, grinding (bruxing), hypertension as well as other habitual behaviors that are repetitive. Certain resting and postural positions may also contribute to the occurrence of TMJ.
Signs and Symptoms
Many signs and symptoms characterize TMD. However, it is difficult to tell if you are suffering from TMD because these signs are also present in other problems. Thus, you can trust your dentist to help you make the right diagnosis. Some common symptoms of TMJ include:
- Headaches that mimic migraines, earaches as well as pressure and pain behind the eyes
- Pain in the jaw, ear area, or face
- The presence of a popping or clicking sound when you open or close the mouth
- Tenderness of the muscles of the jaw
- A swollen face
- A jaw that gets locked/stuck or gets out of place
Treatment Options for TMJ
With the right diagnosis, TMJ can be treated. In most cases, non-surgical TMJ treatment is recommended to offer TMJ pain relief. If you are experiencing nighttime tooth grinding, bite splints (also known as neuromuscular orthotics) may be created to not only protect your teeth but also realign your jaw while you sleep. Minor changes may also be made to your teeth to change your bite. Other TMJ treatment options may be recommended depending on the nature of your disorder. These include TMJ exercises that target specific pain.
Generally, you are advised to embrace regular dental care at a dental clinic that practices neuromuscular dentistry, which includes TMJ evaluations to be able to detect TMJ at the earliest opportunity before it advances.
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