January 19, 2023
TMJ disorder is a common condition known to cause a variety of symptoms, including clicking and popping sounds when opening and closing the mouth and lockjaw. Many people associate this condition with adults because it’s often triggered by stress related to teeth grinding and underlying orthodontic issues. However, it’s also common in children. According to a study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences in 2014, TMD has a high prevalence in children and teens experiencing emotional stress. Read on to learn the warning signs to look out for in your little one and how to find help.
What Causes Children to Experience TMD?
TMJ disorder (also referred to as TMD) is a condition that affects the function of the two jaw joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull. These allow for the mouth to move up and down and side to side, helping complete basic daily tasks like eating and speaking.
For children, this condition is often a result of stress that leads to bruxism, or the grinding and clenching of teeth, past jaw damage, or even orthodontic issues that cause the joints to bear additional force and pressure. As a result, your child may experience pain and discomfort in the jaw and neck as well as other symptoms that impact their day-to-day life.
Warning Signs to Look Out For
If you’re concerned about your child’s jaw and oral health, here are some symptoms to look out for that could indicate they have TMD:
- Clicking or popping sounds when they open or close their mouth
- Teeth grinding when they sleep or throughout the day
- Lockjaw that keeps them from opening or closing their mouth
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Pain in the head, neck, jaw, or face
- Migraines or headaches
It’s important to keep in mind that this condition can affect children at any age, but it most commonly impacts teens, especially girls.
Finding Help for Your Child with TMD
If you believe your child could have TMD, it’s important to schedule an evaluation for them with their dentist. After asking about their symptoms and collecting any necessary diagnostic tests, they may suggest one of the following treatment options:
- Occlusal adjustment involves reshaping misshapen teeth to more perfectly align their bite.
- Bite splints are customized orthotic devices that they can wear as they sleep to gradually shift their jaw alignment into its ideal position, relieving stress and strain on their joints.
- TENS (Trans Epidural Neural Stimulation) is a muscle stimulator that can place the muscles in a physiologically relaxed state.
The dentist may also create a customized treatment plan involving Phase One and/or Phase Two TMJ therapy if the case is more complex and requires multiple interventions.
As a parent, making sure your child’s health is always on the right track can be stressful and even difficult, but it’s all worth it when you get to see them getting the most out of their daily life! With the help of a skilled TMJ dentist by your side, you can help them find the lasting relief they deserve.
About the Author
Dr. James Olsen is a skilled TMJ specialist with decades of experience in his field. He has completed advanced neuromuscular dental training and has helped countless patients of all ages find relief from TMJ pain and headaches related to their condition. He has also completed additional training at the prestigious Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. For questions or to schedule a TMJ evaluation for your child, visit his website or call 734-996-0200.
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