Why Teenage Patients Have More [TMJ] Problems in the Springtime

bracesWhy Teenage Patients Have More TMJ Problems in the Springtime

Most people associate springtime with blooming flowers, the first glimpses of sunshine after months of gloomy darkness, and beach vacations south of the border. But for those of use in the orthodontic business, springtime is also the time of year when TMJ is at its all-time high. It’s when we’re most accustomed to seeing parents accompanying teenagers complaining of jaw pain into our offices.

Why does this happen? What is TMJ? And why does it seem to reach epidemic proportions during the spring? Here’s what your orthodontist wants you to know.

What is TMJ?

The abbreviation TMJ stands for temporal mandibular joint disorder, and it describes a whole network of problems affecting the patient’s jaw, specifically the muscles involved in chewing, swallowing, and speech. It commonly presents with sudden pain, clicking or popping of the jaw, and difficulty opening the jaw. In more severe cases, the jaw can even lock while opening or closing and cause secondary problems like headache pain and dizziness.

TMJ has no single known cause, but it can be exacerbated by a wide range of problems including facial trauma, whiplash, teeth-grinding or clenching, and stress. The condition can be intermittent or chronic. The majority of sufferers of chronic TMJ are young women who have other chronic pain problems.

Why is TMJ More Common in Spring?

As we mentioned above, TMJ is frequently brought on by stress, and springtime is an especially stressful time in the lives of most teenagers. Older teens are facing graduation and preparing to depart home for college. Other teens are attempting to secure summer jobs before the school year ends. The majority of teens have final exams to think about, as well as other adolescent milestones like prom.

Even high-achieving students can be prone to the stress associated with TMJ. For that reason, parental support is essential. An exam is also strongly recommended to ensure that your teen’s pain is stress-related and not due to a jaw or bite problem that must be corrected with braces, Invisalign, or another course of orthodontic treatment.

What Can I Do to Help My Teen with TMJ?

Stress is a fact of life that everyone must deal with, and that can make resolving the pain of TMJ a unique challenge. Parents are frequently powerless to relieve the stress in their kids’ lives, especially when it concerns school, but they can help their children to better manage their stress levels.

After receiving a proper diagnosis to ensure that TMJ pain isn’t related to another underlying condition, parents can work with children and orthodontists to find a combination of therapies to facilitate pain relief.

Some of the most commonly recommended remedies for TMJ pain are:

  • Applying a hot pack to the affected area to relieve muscle tension
  • Performing self-massage by gently rubbing the affected area to encourage clenched muscles to relax
  • Working with teens on being mindful of when they’re clenching their jaws or grinding their teeth
  • Using relaxation techniques including yoga and meditation to help calm the nervous system and relieve stress

 

Having teens fitted with a custom mouth guard to help prevent clenching and grinding during sleep
If your teen has exceptional difficulty managing stress, a visit with a licensed therapist or another mental health professional may prove useful

Keep in mind that TMJ treatment isn’t just about pain relief. While you may be able to alleviate the symptoms, it’s equally important to address the underlying stress that caused it in the first place. Otherwise, you can expect it to recur again and again.

My Child Has Braces. Will This Affect How We Treat Their TMJ?

If your child has metal brackets or clear aligners like Invisalign, some suggested therapies for TMJ (such as wearing a nighttime mouth guard) may not be practical for them. In that case, we suggest exploring some of the other solutions recommended above. Your orthodontist can work with you to help you decide which pain-relief strategies are best for you and your child.

Keep in mind that TMJ rarely disappears for good. If your child is prone to experiencing jaw tension in times of stress, you can expect the TMJ to recur anytime he or she is facing adversity. With this awareness and an arsenal of pain-relief techniques at your disposal, you can help equip your child to win the fight against TMJ no matter when it pops up.

Call Our Orthodontist Today to Schedule Your First Appointment

At Childers Orthodontics in Benton, Ill., Dr. Kyle R. Childers offers expert care for children, teenagers, and adults. Our orthodontist provides these treatments to repair misaligned teeth:

• Damon System – passive self-ligating devices
• Braces – traditional wires and brackets or color-matching ceramic brackets
• Aligners – designed by Invisalign
• Retainers – designed for keeping teeth in correct positions
• SureSmile – customized archwires
• Propel – alveolar perforations for faster bone formation

Call us to schedule your first orthodontic evaluation.

Childers Orthodontics

201 West Washington
Benton, IL 62812
Phone: (618) 438-2815

Why Teenage Patients Have More TMJ Problems in the Springtime

 

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