Is TMJ Genetic?

The symptoms caused by temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction interfere significantly with many people’s ability to work, sleep, and enjoy an active lifestyle. Adding to the frustration of this life-altering condition is the lack of understanding of TMJ disorders. One question many who suffer from TMJ disorder ask is, is TMJ genetic?

If you grind your teeth at night or have jaw pain, schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive oral exam and TMJ evaluation.

Who Is Affected by TMJ Disorder?

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at NIH, TMJ disorders affect 5-12% of the population. In addition, women are more likely than men to have problems with their temporomandibular joint. Although most chronic diseases are more prevalent among older adults, TMJ affects younger people between twenty and forty. However, anyone can develop symptoms at any age.

What Are The Risk Factors for TMJ Problems?

Several factors increase the risk of developing TMJ, including:

  • Misaligned teeth.

  • Stress.

  • Hormonal changes such as menopause.

  • Trauma such as whiplash.

  • Clenching and grinding your teeth.

  • Habits such as biting fingernails or lip. 

  • Chewing gum, candy, or nonfood items such as ink pens.

What Are The Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction?

One of the challenges in diagnosing TMJ disorder is the presence of the same symptoms with other conditions. For example, jaw pain can occur with TMJ, an abscessed tooth or an oral tumor. Nevertheless, dentists consider the diagnosis of TMJ with the presence of one or more of several symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty opening and closing your mouth.

  • Jaw locking open or closed.

  • Clicking or popping noises accompanied by discomfort when opening or closing.

  • Headaches.

  • A change in how teeth bite together.

  • Jaw pain, especially in the TMJ directly in front of the ears.

  • Pain in the muscles of the jaw and neck.

Is TMJ Genetic?

Except for misaligned teeth, the factors listed above fall under the category of what scientists call epigenetics. This growing field of study looks at the effect of environment and behavior on how genes are expressed. An example is a person whose genes reflect an inclination toward obesity. However, the person eats an exceptionally healthy diet and remains committed to exercising. These diet and exercise behaviors prevent the obesity gene from expressing itself.

As the science of genetics continues to evolve, researchers look for specific genes directly linked to various conditions such as TMJ disorders. For example, one study examined a family in which three successive generations had various TMJ symptoms. They concluded that a genetic variation resulted in family members inheriting TMJ disorder. Although disagreement remains, most scientists agree that there is a genetic component to developing TMJ disorder.

Preventing TMJ

Because of the prevalence and consequences of TMJ disorder, public health officials express an urgent need to precisely determine the causative factors. Most likely, TMJ problems will always result from a combination of epigenetic and genetic factors. The person genetically inclined to TMJ disorder might want to consider preventive measures, such as:

  • Correcting misaligned teeth.

  • Maintaining good posture.

  • Wearing a night guard if you grind your teeth.

  • Managing stress as optimally as possible.

  • Avoiding excessive gum chewing.

  • Minimizing eating hard foods.

  • Eliminating habits such as fingernail and lip biting.

Schedule Appointment

Contact us at Trident Dental to learn how we can help you resolve TMJ symptoms such as headaches, jaw pain, and worn teeth. We offer services such as custom-made night guards and cosmetic dentistry to help prevent and treat the effects of TMJ disorder.

Schedule Appointment

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