Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a joint disorder that primarily affects the jaw bone.
This condition hinders general mobility of the jaw plus activities such as chewing, yawning, singing among others.
Aside from direct symptoms, it displays secondary symptoms like migraines, ear pain, shoulder pain and fatigue.
Studies indicate that close to 30% of the world’s population will at some point in their lives get affected by TMD in varying degrees.
For most people, the symptoms are acute and present themselves in mild forms, and most people can continue with their daily activities without significant hindrance. The mild symptoms will disappear after a few weeks.
However, in a small percentage of people, the signs do become chronic to the point where the pain otherwise becomes paralyzing.
Aspects of your life; be it social, economic and even your emotional state might be distraught altogether.
During such times it is imperative that you seek medical attention from a qualified and competent dentist who knows about the TMJ disorders.
The treatments vary depending on the level of pain, most of the interventions are impermanent such as pain medicine, splints and night guards that try their best to improve the TMJ bone.
However, when you have tried all the measures and failed, it is wise to opt for surgery in spite of its risks. If your pain is manageable, then you likely do not need to worry.
If your pain has persisted for more than three months, a visit to the dentist to seek further medical advice would be most prudent of you.
Prevalence of TMD in children and adults
Let us address on who between adults and children is at more risk of developing TMJ Disorder.
Well, a lot of people have the predisposed bias that TMD is an old people disease.
In reality, however, this assertion is in fact wrong.
Here’s an interesting finding: according to recent research, children are more likely to get TMD in comparison to adults.
The term children in this context refers to anyone who is under the legal adult age.
Teenagers and TMD
Pubescent years come with a lot of change.
From bodily changes, hormonal imbalance, and a deep yearning to be free and independent of adult supervision because, in their eyes, these children feel they are grown. These transitional changes may be accompanied by a lot of stress.
Stress is one of the main factors causes of TMD.
Therefore there is an increase in the potential of a teenager to develop TMD due to the stress experienced.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and TMJ Disorder
JIA is an inflammatory disease and currently is the most common form of arthritis in children with approximately 300,000 children in the US presently living with JIA from infancy to teenage.
‘Idiopathic’ means unknown origin.
The disease till now has no known root.
Types of idiopathic arthritis
Idiopathic arthritis is sub-grouped into the following categories:
Enthesitis: This type of arthritis usually affects the spine and the legs
Undifferentiated arthritis: This is the form of arthritis that does not fit in any category or fits in more than one.
Juvenile psoriatic arthritis:
Polyarticular JIA (negative and positive) - 25% of the total cases
Systemic JIA - occurs in at least 10% of all the children diagnosed with JIA. This form of JIA affects the whole body. Symptoms accompanying it include high fever, swelling of the lymph nodes, development of a rash. The child may look gravely ill.
Oligoarticular arthritis - this particular form of arthritis affects 3-5 joints in the body and depending on the number of joints it is impacting, it can be referred to as persistent and extended.
Not every child suffering from JIA has a Temporomandibular disorder.
Bruxism is prevalent in children.
Children tend to grind and clench their teeth more often not necessarily because they are stressed.
The children use it as a coping mechanism to treat ear pain and even when teething.
Statistically, about 15% of all children have a form of bruxism; some statistics go as far as stating it’s close to 38% of the children have bruxism.
Some research posits that bruxism is a hereditary problem. Nonetheless, most children outgrow the condition as they get older.
This is also another reason why children are more significant in number when it comes to TMD disorders.
Types of bites and malocclusion
Malocclusion and bite issues, in layman’s terms, point to the misalignment of teeth which leads to dental problems.
It might also hamper the normal functioning of your jaw and teeth in aspects like chewing food, random headaches, earaches among other symptoms.
A varied number of actions cause Malocclusions and bite issues.
- Trauma – physical trauma on the jaw bone can cause a malocclusion
- Genes – Malocclusion and bite issues in some patients is as a result of genetics. Some Malocclusions are inherited e.g. cleft lip
- Behaviors – such as sucking on the thumb too long or excessive use of pacifiers increase the chances of children getting malocclusions.
Jaw complications include:
Upper protrusion - Characterized by the upper front teeth protruding, and causing a misaligned bite
Spacing/ crowning problems - These situations occur when the gum space available per tooth is larger than the tooth itself. Mostly an aesthetic issue and use of braces is advised
Misplaced midline - the back bite and front bite are not fitting appropriately and
Open bite - Occurs where the lower jaw and upper jaw do not overlap
Overbite - Also referred to as retrognathia, this condition occurs when the lower jaw is significantly smaller than the upper jaw resulting in a misaligned jaw.
Under bite - An under bite is the opposite of an overbite it is referred to sometimes as prognathia a situation where the lower jaw is significantly larger than the upper jaw.
Cross bite - The upper teeth sit on the inside of the lower teeth which when closing your mouth, the lower jaw is moved to one side
Rotation bite – where a tooth turns or rotates from its original position.
Transposition bite - teeth pop up where other teeth already are positioned.
Most malocclusions and bite issues are reversible, especially in young children.
By the time the children grow up, a large majority abandon certain behavior’s that caused Malocclusions, or they went for medical treatment.
This promotes the decline in the number of adults affected by TMJ disorders.
Children are more susceptible to TMJ problems
In conclusion, children will be more susceptible to being affected by temporomandibular joint disorders.
One of the main reasons why TMJ disorders are more prevalent in underage persons is because these disorders occur very early in the life of children.
In some situations, the children outgrow the symptoms, and they lose the TMJ disorders altogether as they reach their adolescent years.
Some people don’t lose the disorder but the pain subsides, and home remedies will suffice when it comes to treatment.
The treatments to re-correct TMJ dysfunction in children include braces, curbing bad habits that increase chances of TMJ, including sucking thumbs and excessive use of pacifiers.
Also wearing protective gear whenever sporting is an important precaution.
The number of children with chronic TMD is significantly less and only represents a small portion of the total child population.