According to new data recently released by ATI Physical Therapy, Millennials are seeking more therapy for TMJ than for any other condition. Although physical therapy can certainly be helpful for TMJ treatment, many people will benefit from TMJ treatment from a dentist either instead of or in addition to physical therapy.
A Condition of Mental Stress Rather Than Physical
The report from ATI showed that, overall, the top five issues patients seek physical therapy for are hip, back, knee, foot, and hand injuries. But Millennials aren’t reporting these types of injuries. Instead, they are seeking treatment for temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), which is a condition that can be related to physical injury, but is more often related to psychological stress.
Stress can cause people to tense their jaw muscles, leading to soreness, joint damage, tooth wear, and other symptoms of TMJ.
Changing Workplace or Changing Diet?
It’s possible that the difference in injury patterns is related to the changing workplace. If Millennials are doing less physical labor, especially less repetitive physical labor, they are less likely to injure their hands, back, and feet. This could be the other side of the loss of manufacturing jobs in the US: fewer people doing repetitive physical labor that results in these kinds of injuries. Instead, their mental stress causes them to respond with muscle tension, resulting in TMJ.
But it’s also possible that Millennials are more prone to serious bite problems because of our ever-changing diet in the US. The changing food supply in the US has supplied us with a seemingly limitless variety of processed foods. These processed foods can be tasty and they can even be nutritious, but they’re rarely challenging for the jaw. This can contribute to underdevelopment of the jaw, which can set the preconditions for TMJ.
Complex TMJ Treatment for a Complex Condition
Assuming that TMJ is related to stress is an oversimplification of the condition. Instead, it’s important to look at multiple potential causes of the condition to assess the true source of TMJ. A neuromuscular dentist is uniquely qualified to make this assessment.
Neuromuscular dentistry is the study of the dynamic interaction of all the components of the jaw system, including the teeth, the muscles, the joints, and the nerves. Looking at all these components together allows us to analyze all the potential causes of TMJ and determine the true cause.
It also allows us to recommend treatment that addresses this true cause. Because TMJ often has multiple contributing causes, it often benefits from a team treatment approach. We can work with other members of your treatment team, including a doctor, physical therapist, life coach, and others to ensure optimal relief from TMJ symptoms. We have a myofunctional therapist on staff to help with TMJ and other bite problems.