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What Happens If TMJ Disorders Are Left Untreated? Written By: Dr. Ankita Shah, December 2022

Tongue Tie

A dysfunctioning Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) can affect your entire body. The TMJ is a powerful joint located on both sides of your face, right in front of your ears connecting your lower jawbone to your skull.

TMJ disorders are conditions that affect your jaw joints and surrounding ligaments and muscles. The causes for TMJ Disorder can be varying, from a misaligned bite to arthritis. Oftentimes people overlook the signs that signal presence of a TMJ disorder, even when it's causing them pain or discomfort.

When a TMJ disorder goes undiagnosed and remains untreated, the causes can worsen with time and cause serious damage to your body and health.

Ever heard of the proverb, a stitch in time saves nine? Doesn’t the proverb speak for itself?

Ignoring TMJ symptoms and leaving them untreated can cause some serious damage.

So, let's take a look at the consequences you stand to face if you leave TMJ disorder untreated.

A] 8 Consequences Of Leaving TMJ Disorder Untreated


1. Chronic Headaches And Migraines

Chronic Headaches And Migraines

In order to understand the connection between headaches and TMJ, we have to revisit a part of the definition for TMJ. One that highlights the connection between your jaw and your skull. The muscles surrounding this joint are spread across your skull & down your neck and back.

So, when the TMJ becomes inflamed, it can affect the connecting muscles, causing headaches. If left untreated, the inflammation will persist, worsening the damage to your body. Over time, your headaches will continue to grow and become more frequent and painful.

You might want to rely on over-the-counter medication for relieving these headaches and migraines, but these will only offer temporary relief. Once the effect wears off, you’ll continue to experience these headaches.

2. Recurring Jaw Pain

Recurring Jaw Pain

Any time you experience jaw pain or ache, it is your body's way of telling you that there’s an issue affecting the proper functioning of your jaw joint. When you ignore these signals, the jaw pain can get worse leading to clicking and popping of jaw joints.

For example,
when you do not treat recurring jaw pain, the pain will continue, turning into a persistent ache, which could lead to more serious conditions like degenerative jaw joint disorders.

Recurring joint pain could be the first indicator of TMJ disorder. When left untreated, the jaw pain will only grow worse, transforming from occasional to persistent ache.

3. Inflammation Of Jaw Joint & Joint Damage

Cartilage plays a big role in the proper functioning of your jaw joints, giving the jaw joint the flexibility required to move appropriately. People with TMJ Disorders often suffer cartilage degeneration associated with arthritis. Ignoring arthritis in such cases can lead to further degradation of the cartilage causing permanent damage.

Inflammation is another issue that could affect the movement of your jaw joint. Like cartilage degeneration, when inflammation is left untreated, the damage to the jaw joint will worsen so much that you could have a dislocated jaw. An untreated dislocated jaw can interfere with your life, hampering your ability to eat and sleep.Getting it treated at the right time could be minimally invasive. A TMJ doctor can use advanced medical solutions such as GNM orthotics to treat your TMJ-related jaw damage, aiming for optimal jaw function.

4. Airway Sleep Disorders

Airway Sleep Disorders

Airway Sleep Disorders

TMJ disorders and Airway disorders almost always are seen together. A misaligned bite or malocclusion is one of the common causes of TMJ disorders. A misaligned bite compromises the natural position of your jaw, which could lead to obstruction of your airway. Obstruction of the airway can often result in snoring and sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough oxygen at night.

This can have you waking up repeatedly throughout the night, disrupting your sleep quality. It not only affects your sleep but also can affect your day, with you experiencing symptoms like headaches, neck pain, brain fog and fatigue.

It's possible to correct the misaligned bite with the help of Airway Orthodontics. It helps restore the normal bite and therefore releases the constricted airway, making it possible for you to have a healthy sleep and life. However, if you don’t take timely action and leave it untreated, your sleep quality will continue to decline.

5. Dental Issues

Dental-Issues

Constant grinding of teeth and teeth clenching has been known to cause TMJ disorder. The constant pressure on your teeth is an unhealthy habit that can wear down your tooth enamel making your teeth prone to fractures. Degrading teeth can also make you favour one side of the jaw, causing asymmetrical face swelling and disproportionate muscle development.

Even though repeated clenching and grinding of the teeth can cause TMJ, people rarely consider it to be a serious issue and often ignore it. Treating this at the right time may help prevent TMD. However, if you leave it untreated, it could not only cause TMJ Disorder but also cause inflamed gum tissue, tooth sensitivity, or tooth loss.

6. Tinnitus & Other Hearing Problems

Tinnitus & Other Hearing Problems

Tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ears, is associated with TMJ due to the proximity of the inner ear to the temporomandibular joint. TMJ irritation or inflammation may damage the cochlea, a part of the inner ear that helps our brain recognize sounds. Damage to the cochlea or other parts of the inner ear may cause ringing in the ear.

If TMJ Disorder is left untreated, the ringing in the ear will get worse, affecting your focus and making you irritable.

7. Mental Health Issues

Mental Health Issues

An NCBI study establishes a statistically significant correlation between TMD, common mental disorders, and perceived stress. It means that the worsening of your mental health could be caused by untreated TMJ. If your mental health suffers constantly, the effects on your day-to-day life can be quite drastic. Over time, these effects will continue to worsen.

8. Postural Issues

Postural Issues

There's a strong connection between body posture and TMJ. A misaligned bite may cause muscle tension that can reverberate throughout the body, reaching your neck, shoulders, back, pelvis, and legs. This can cause postural issues such as short leg syndrome, which is explained comprehensively in our guide connection between body posture and TMJ.

Leaving TMJ untreated can increase the occurrence of postural issues, which can cause back pain and joint degeneration.

Conclusion: Get Your TMJ Disorder Treated by TMJ Expert

All the consequences mentioned above will only worsen if the TMJ Disorder is left untreated. Since leaving TMJ disorder untreated has so many consequences that can disrupt your life, you should consider getting it treated by a TMJ expert.

A TMJ specialist at our TMJ, Tongue Tie, and Sleep Institute can help diagnose the root cause of your TMJ and offer guidance or treatment for the determining issue. This should ensure you live a healthy and uncompromised life.

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