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January 20, 2022

What Happens if You Don’t Treat a TMJ Disorder?

Woman rubbing jaw due to TMJ pain in Ann Arbor

When you first start experiencing jaw pain, you might not think it’s a serious problem at first. Maybe you just think of the discomfort as something you have to deal with regularly. In reality, it could be a problem with your jaw’s temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and while your condition might seem manageable at first, it could eventually lead to much more severe or even debilitating problems. Here’s why you should seek treatment right away if you’re noticing potential signs of a TMJ disorder, or TMD for short.

The Risks of Untreated TMD

While TMD is not a life-threatening issue, it can cause the following long-term issues if it isn’t treated in time:

  • Chronic Jaw Pain: At first you might only notice jaw pain every once in a while, but as your TMD grows worse, the discomfort can become constant.
  • Joint Damage: A TMD is the result of a problem with your jaw joints. The longer you go without treatment, the worse the damage becomes. Eventually, you may have trouble opening or closing your mouth.
  • Sleep Disorders: If your TMD is the result of a misaligned bite, you could also be at risk for sleep apnea. The improper placement of your jaw could lead to a partially or fully blocked airway, leading to pauses in your breathing while you slumber.
  • Malnourishment: When your jaw is in constant pain, you’ll probably start to eat more soft and liquid foods while staying away from meals that are harder to chew. This can make it more difficult to get proper nutrition, leading to all kinds of health issues.
  • Premature Wear and Tear of Teeth: TMD is often caused by bruxism, which is when you unconsciously grind and clench your teeth. This can eventually severely wear down your enamel.

Fortunately, the worst of the dangers of TMD in Ann Arbor can be avoided if you have it diagnosed and treated quickly.

What You Can Do to Treat TMD

Your first step should be to call your dentist so that they can evaluate your mouth and jaw in order to determine whether or not your pain really is being caused by a TMD. Then they can design a treatment plan for you based on the root cause of the disorder. This might involve adjusting the teeth to improve the alignment of the bite, correcting the positioning of your jaw with an oral appliance, or stopping the pain with electrical stimulation from a TENS unit.

Untreated TMD can negatively affect the quality of your life, so it’s important to be proactive about having it treated. Reach out to your dentist right away if you notice jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds when moving your mouth, swelling on the face, or migraines and headaches that haven’t responded to other treatments; the sooner you get the right kind of treatment, the better off you’ll be.

About the Author

Dr. James Olsen is a proud native of Ann Arbor. He initially opened his private practice here with one operatory and one employee; today his office is a state-of-the-art facility with a full highly-trained team dedicated to bringing you high quality dental care. Dr. Olson’s training includes neuromuscular dentistry, and as such he’s been able to help many patients find relief from TMJ and headache pain. To schedule a consultation about your TMD, visit his website or call (734) 996-0200.

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