The National Institutes of Health reports 5 percent to 12 percent of the population lives with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). Unlike other chronic, pain-related conditions, rates of TMD are higher among younger people. In fact, women aged 20 to 45 are the most likely group to develop TMD. Numerous studies have also reported signs and symptoms among youth, similar to those observed in adults. All in all, the NIH notes 60 to 70percent of us will experience at least one sign of TMD in our lifetimes. Like TMD, wisdom teeth are very much a younger person’s concern.
How wisdom teeth cause TMJ Disorders
Wisdom teeth typically come in between the ages of 17 and 21, when older teens and younger adults are starting to gain wisdom as they grow out of childhood. Dr. Scott Everhart, Dr. Mamta Kori and Dr. Jamshidi at University Dental in Middletown OH mention wisdom teeth because TMJ problems may be rooted in these back molars that fail to erupt in a healthy manner; they may emerge part-way or be impacted fully underneath the gums.
To better understand the wisdom teeth-TMJ connection is to be conscious of the mechanics behind TMJ disorders. The temporomandibular joints are the hinges on each side of your face, which connect the jaw to the skull. Disorders affect the joints, as well as the chewing muscles and associated structures. If you have TMD, you likely have:
- Facial pain
- Limited range of jaw motion
- Muscle fatigue
- Clicking and popping sounds when you open and close your mouth
Wisdom teeth are generally problematic, giving rise to TMD and a whole host of other problems, because often the mouth doesn’t have room for these last back teeth to develop. Our human ancestors needed those teeth for grinding the chewy, hard foods that they ate many millennia ago. Nowadays, with evolution in terms of jaw development and in terms of the foods we consume, wisdom teeth are a vestigial (unnecessary) organ, like the tailbone or appendix.
When wisdom teeth don’t break through your gums all the way or come in at the wrong angle, they can get stuck and affect the roots of neighboring teeth. They can also cause crowding, pushing otherwise healthy teeth into unhealthy positions. Those who suffer from an impacted tooth may suddenly find themselves having problems with chewing food.
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Malocclusion refers to the various forms of misalignment that can affect your bite, or the relationship between the teeth in the upper jaw and the teeth in the lower jaw. When you bite down, the upper teeth should slip just slightly over the lower jaw. The ridges of your molars or back teeth should fit well into the grooves of the opposite molars. In addition to crowding, your upper teeth may significantly overlap your lower teeth (overbite), or the reverse problem may be true – the lower teeth may jut out past the upper teeth (underbite).
A poor bite or bite imbalance can throw this harmonious system of joints, muscles, ligaments, and nerves out-of-whack. It does so by placing additional stress on TMJs, pulling or pushing the joints out of their natural positions. As the joints shift out of their natural healthy positions, so do all the structures and tissues that are connected to the TMJ. So, the wisdom teeth troubles that can cause acute pain and swelling, can also cause additional functional complications. The muscular strain and damaged joints can manifest as the symptoms mentioned above, as well as spasms, migraines, earaches and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
University Dental, a wise choice
Dr. Kori, Dr. Everhart and Dr. Jamshidi and skilled professionals at University Dental will help you avoid all the unpleasant problems associated with wisdom teeth that don’t develop properly, as well as the complications like bite problems and TMD symptoms. They’ll do so with an emphasis on prevention, identifying issues with wisdom teeth through an exam, X-rays and other diagnostics. From there, we’ll intervene early. Many wisdom teeth can be removed, painlessly and quickly, at our office. The treatment site is fully numbed, and sedative options can help you relax further.
At University Dental, we also accept many forms of insurance, including Medicaid. Often, insurance plans cover wisdom teeth extractions as a medically-necessary procedure, given that broken or impacted teeth can lead to all sorts of additional problems – infections, cysts, and bone and nerve damage.
University Dental also takes a multifaceted approach to treating TMJ-related problems, not limited to bite correction with orthodontic and oral appliance therapy, restorative treatments, and guidance on lifestyle changes that can improve your symptoms and reduce your reliance on pain medications.