We are continuing to learn startling insights from the world’s largest study of TMJ disorders. The multicenter OPPERA (Orofacial Pain Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment) study enrolled over 3200 people without TMJ and followed them for an average of about three years to see how many of them developed TMJ, what symptoms they experienced, and what characteristics seemed to influence their risk.

Many results from this large study have been published, but we continue to get interesting insights from it. The study recently reported so much data that the journal Pain created a supplemental issue to report it.

The basic demographic insights of the study are surprising, and perhaps most surprising of all is that TMJ is probably at least three times more common than previously suspected.

How Many People Suffer from TMJ?

As we said, the people in the trial didn’t have TMJ when the trial began. However, over the average of 2.8 years that they were followed, 260 of the 2732 who completed the study were diagnosed with TMJ. People developed TMJ at a rate of 3.9% per year, and by the end of the study, about 9.5% of the population had developed it. This is significantly more than the conventional wisdom reports.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), which sponsored the study, had previously reported estimates that there were about 10 million TMJ sufferers in the US , or about 3.3% of the population.

The study also showed that risks of developing TMJ increased with age, so it’s likely that as our population ages, we will see more and more TMJ.

Men Get TMJ Almost as Much as Women

Another piece of conventional wisdom that this study exploded is that women disproportionately suffer from TMJ. Sometimes prior estimates stated that the ratio of women to men suffering from TMJ was as high as 6:1, and that 90% of people seeking treatment for TMJ were women in their childbearing years.
Although the treatment figures may be accurate, this study shows that women and men actually develop TMJ at about the same frequency. The disparity was not considered statistically significant.

This means that the majority of men who suffer from TMJ don’t seek proper treatment.

Sufferers Need to Seek Treatment

The figures from this study show that there are likely millions more people suffering with TMJ but not seeking treatment for symptoms such as jaw pain and headaches.

If you are among this number, you need to know that there’s no reason to go on living with pain. TMJ treatment can help. To learn whether you have TMJ, please contact Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC today for an evaluation by a neuromuscular dentist.