Is there a link between TMJ and wisdom teeth?

If a person’s wisdom teeth are growing this can result in jaw pain and discomfort, similar to the symptoms experienced in people with TMJ disorders. However, affected wisdom teeth do not directly cause TMJ disorders to occur.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), also known as the jaw joint, connects the lower jaw bone to the temporal bones on either side of the head. This joint helps in the movement of the jaw. TMJ disorders are conditions that result in jaw pain and dysfunction.

Studies suggest that TMJ disorders affect more than 10 million people in the United States and are more prevalent in females than males.

However, TMJ disorders are rarely a direct result of wisdom teeth growth and have several other causes, such as jaw injuries and certain forms of arthritis. TMJ disorders may also be a complication of dental procedures or surgery, such as those for impacted wisdom teeth.

This article explores the possible links between wisdom teeth and TMJ disorders and the causes, symptoms, treatments, and home remedies for TMJ disorders. We also look into possible complications of impacted wisdom teeth and the removal process.

Wisdom teeth or third molars are the last teeth to appear in an adult’s lifetime. They generally erupt when a person is 17–21 years old.

While doctors do not directly link wisdom teeth with TMJ disorders, if a wisdom tooth is infected or growing, it can cause some overlapping symptoms, including:

Symptoms of TMJ disorders

Other symptoms of TMJ disorders include:

Impacted wisdom teeth grow at an angle and push into the gum or tooth beside them, resulting in pain and discomfort in the gums, jaw, and surrounding area.

Symptoms of impacted teeth include:

  • cysts
  • gum disease
  • pericoronitis, which causes inflammation and infection of the soft tissue around the wisdom tooth and swelling of the gum in the affected area
  • damage to the neighboring tooth
  • tooth decay
  • gum or jaw pain

Additionally, crowding of the impacted wisdom teeth can lead to cheek ulcers and difficulty chewing.

Removal of impacted wisdom teeth

In cases where impacted wisdom teeth are causing dental problems, doctors may suggest removing or extracting them. This procedure can take up to 20 minutes.

Extraction might cause swelling and discomfort that lasts for about a few days. People must be careful following the removal of impacted wisdom teeth to prevent complications, such as:

  • pain and swelling as they push against other teeth
  • damage to the adjacent teeth
  • tooth decay
  • gum disease
  • crowding of teeth
  • disruption of regular activities such as chewing and speaking
  • infection

Research has also suggested that removal of impacted wisdom teeth may sometimes result in TMJ disorders as a complication. More than 30% of people reported joint or muscular pain after wisdom teeth removal.

Learn more about recovery following the removal of impacted wisdom teeth.

The causes of TMJ disorders include:

Most people with TMJ disorders experience mild symptoms that improve on their own in a few weeks or months. Doctors recommend conservative and reversible treatments for serious cases.

Conservative treatments are noninvasive and do not cause any permanent changes to the position and structure of the teeth or jaw. The last option for treating acute cases of TMJ disorders is surgery.

Conservative treatments

Conservative treatments mostly involve medication and therapies.

Medications

Doctors prescribe medications to relieve the pain associated with TMJ disorders. These medications are either available over the counter (OTC) or require a prescription. A few common medications include:

People must consult a doctor about the correct dosage of these medications and how long to take them for before beginning a course.

Alternative treatments

Alternative treatments include the following:

  • Oral splints: An oral splint is a device that fits over either the upper or lower teeth and helps relieve pain. However, people must only use oral splints for a short duration so that no permanent changes in the bite occur.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy helps improve and restore physical function and movement. Treatments include stretching the muscles, heat and cold therapy, and resistance exercises.
  • Counseling: Counselling may help improve symptoms of TMJ disorders. It may also help to monitor behaviors such as teeth grinding and clenching and nail biting, which can cause TMJ disorders and regularly occur due to stress and anxiety.

Surgery and other dental procedures

Surgery or dental procedures are more complex and can cause permanent tooth changes and bite changes. Consultation with doctors is necessary to understand these procedures and their associated risks in detail before undergoing them.

Common procedures to treat severe cases of TMJ disorders include:

  • Botulinum toxin (Botox): Injecting botox into the chewing muscles can help reduce muscle spasms and pain. Botox injections can decrease the intensity, frequency, and duration of recurrent episodes and symptoms of TMJ disorders.
  • Arthrocentesis: This procedure involves removing inflammatory byproducts by inserting fluid into the joint with tiny needles. Research demonstrated significant improvement in mouth opening and reduction in pain scores in the postoperative period following this procedure.
  • TMJ implants: Implants are artificial devices that can replace a part of or the entire jaw joint and restore TMJ function, including opening and closing the mouth and chewing. Implants can be an option when all other treatment options have failed.

Learn more about how doctors treat TMJ disorders.

TMJ disorders are common conditions that impact the jaw, causing pain.

Although impacted wisdom teeth and TMJ disorders share some common symptoms, impacted wisdom teeth rarely cause TMJ disorders. However, doctors often recommend the removal of impacted wisdom teeth to prevent complications developing.

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