Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a common condition, affecting as much as 30% of US adults at some time in their lives. But it isn’t always a primary condition, sometimes it develops as a complication of other disorders, such as the rare genetic condition Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). In cases like this, people will not get good results from TMJ treatment because they won’t have discovered the root cause of their problems.
During your TMJ evaluation at Smile Columbia Dentistry, we will consider other potential causes of your TMJ symptoms.
What Is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
EDS is a genetic disorder related to a defect in the way your body makes connective tissues. These connective tissues are essential to all your body’s structures, including your skin, joints, and even your blood vessels.
Overall, the incidence of EDS is about one case for every 5000 individuals, though it is composed of six subtypes, most of which are exceedingly rare, with mere dozens of cases diagnosed worldwide. The most common types are classical and hypermobility.
Although EDS manifests from childhood, it is not always diagnosed at a young age, and is commonly misdiagnosed. Some people, especially those with the more common and mild forms, grow to adulthood without knowing that they have the condition.
Why Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Can Cause TMJ
EDS affects all the body’s tissues, but it is in the joints that it most commonly manifests. The joints become hypermobile, that is they are excessively flexible and prone to dislocation, including the temporomandibular joints. When the temporomandibular joints become dislocated or displaced because of EDS, TMJ symptoms such as jaw pain, headaches, ear symptoms, and more may manifest themselves.
On top of typical EDS symptoms, TMJ can be disabling.
Do You Have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
As we noted, EDS is relatively rare, but it is an important possibility to consider to ensure you’re getting the best treatment. One warning sign would be if you have a history of joint problems in all your joints, not just the temporomandibular joints. Dislocations and hypermobility in other joints mean you might have EDS.
You should also look out for skin-related symptoms. Soft, velvety skin that is very fragile is symptomatic of EDS. You may bruise easily and develop abnormal scars. For example, your skin may split open, involving little bleeding, but the cut won’t close. It actually expands, creating a patch of skin that looks like thin paper.
Serious heart diseases may also be related to EDS, and an elevated risk of hernia, pregnancy complications, and nerve compression disorders (such as carpal tunnel).
If you are concerned that your TMJ symptoms may also indicate another serious condition, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a TMJ dentist who can help you track down the root cause of your symptoms.