Hormones -- Research suggests a link between estrogen, pain and jaw joints. Scientists have found estrogen receptors in the temporomandibular joints of baboons, while none were found in males. Studies have also shown that women who undergo hormone replacement therapy or take oral contraceptives are more likely to report jaw pain.
Joint Structure -- Some believe the collagen that holds the disk in place between the joint's ball and socket in women is different from men. This may cause more women to have dislocated disks, which can trigger TMJ.
Vitamin Deficiencies -- Several conditions linked to magnesium deficiencies have been found to be more common among women, including TMJ syndrome. There is a possibility that menstruation contributes to some vitamin deficiencies, which may explain why TMJ affects women in their childbearing years.
Taking Time to Help Yourself
Whether women are more affected by TMJ disorder or if they're just more likely to seek help for it, they're taking the right route by looking into it. A dentist who's familiar with TMJ can diagnose the condition and rule out other jaw problems. If you're a woman with jaw joint discomfort, be sure to speak with your dentist if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Problems chewing or popping sounds in the jaw
- Headaches, dizziness or ringing in the ears
- Pain in jaw joints, face, neck or shoulders
- Muscle spasms
- Trouble opening or closing the jaw or lockjaw
- Swelling on the side of your face
Your dentist can perform several exams to determine if you have TMJ syndrome. Once diagnosed, you can wait for TMJ to go away on its own or try home therapies for temporary relief. Jaw exercises and warm compresses will help you relax the jaw, and you should also take measures to reduce stress. In the meantime, your dentist may give you a prescription to control TMJ pain, and you should avoid hard and sticky foods to help the joint heal.
For more extreme cases, your dentist may give you a splint or bite plate, which is a plastic guard worn to reduce clenching and teeth grinding. Your doctor may also inject a cleaning solution into the joint to wash away fluid or cortisone to relieve pain. As a last resort, surgery may be used to correct the situation.
A Joint Effort
Scientists are still trying to understand TMJ disorder. But as scientific research progresses, we'll have more information as to why women tend to be more affected. In the meantime, you can take steps to prevent the disease. Reducing stress, eating well and exercising can lessen your chances of getting TMJ syndrome, along with many other ailments. Besides, with all you have to do, shouldn't you take time to relax anyway?