It’s a difficult problem to deal with. Although most people will develop TMJ symptoms at some point in their lives, only a fraction of those people will end up developing chronic TMJ.

Transient TMJ can be easily treated at home, and the symptoms will go away on their own with simple lifestyle modifications. Chronic TMJ, on the other hand, can lead to wide-ranging symptoms that worsen over time. Unfortunately, by the time it becomes clear that a person has chronic TMJ, the condition has progressed and treatment is harder. To improve TMJ treatment, it’s important to distinguish which is which earlier.

The good news is that some researchers have proposed just that at the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) conference this year.

Unhappy man, suffering from jaw pain

Clinical Signs Predict TMJ Progression

To figure out what distinguished chronic and transient TMJ, researchers examined 260 adults who developed the condition. They then examined 147 patients again six months later. A total of 72 patients still had TMJ symptoms at this time.

They key insight of this recent research is that certain clinical signs are critical to distinguish between people who are likely to develop chronic TMJ. Researchers found that pain in jaw muscles at maximum jaw opening or when touched by an examining dentist predicted 71% of persistent TMJ cases. They could improve their predictive accuracy to 77% by factoring in chewing limitations, parafunctional oral behaviors, and some other diagnostic criteria.

Demographics and Biopsychosocial Factors Are Weak Predictors

Researchers discovered that, on the other hand, some factors we thought predicted chronic TMJ were not that effective predictors. Women made up only 58% of those who developed chronic TMJ, even though conventional wisdom suggests that women are six times as likely to develop TMJ. And only about 60% of those with chronic TMJ were white and non-Hispanic.

Recently, some people have proposed that biopsychosocial factors may be key to developing chronic TMJ. This includes things like pain intensity and location, physical function, depression, anxiety, and other measures. But this new study showed that these didn’t seem to make a difference in the question of transient vs. chronic TMJ.

A Dentist Can Tell the Difference

One conclusion we can draw from this study is that it’s hard for you to tell whether your TMJ will be transient or chronic. Instead, you want to see a dentist about your jaw problem and get a more effective diagnosis.

You can try home treatment for a short period, but if your symptoms persist for a week or more, it’s time to see a dentist and learn whether your symptoms are likely to pass or persist.

To get comprehensive diagnosis of your TMJ, please call (201) 343-4044 today for an appointment with a TMJ Dentist at River Edge Dental, New Jersey’s center for TMJ, sleep apnea, & reconstructive dentistry.