What Happens If TMJ Problems Are Left Untreated?

The team at the Headache & TMJ Center of New Jersey has covered TMJ treatments at length on our blog. We have suggested things you can do on your own to improve symptoms, and explained the treatments Dr. Ivan Stein offers to help manage TMJ disease.

However, we have not spent much time explaining what happens when TMJ disorder is left untreated. Although TMJ is not a life-threatening disorder, failing to address the problem can have an enormous impact on your physical and psychological health. Left untreated, eventually TMJ problems can start to interfere with daily life in ways you never thought possible.

Physical Consequences

You are probably well aware of the physical symptoms of TMJ problems: unrelenting jaw pain, embarrassing clicking or popping noises when opening your mouth and chronic tension in the head and neck.

At first, the pain and discomfort of TMJ problems may be merely annoying. But if the root of TMJ disorder is not addressed, this pain and discomfort may worsen and become almost crippling.

As TMJ pain intensifies, the unrelenting discomfort may interfere with the way you eat. Some patients with TMJ problems switch to a soft foods-only diet or even a liquid diet because chewing is painful. If followed long-term, a liquid diet may lead to a state of malnutrition or disordered eating habits.

There are other serious consequences to chronic pain: namely, it can lead to dependence on unhealthy coping methods, like drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, taking high doses of pain medication or using drugs.

Another serious concern associated with untreated TMJ problems is the disease’s effect on oral health. Many cases of TMJ disorder are caused or worsened by teeth grinding. Chronic teeth grinding wears down the teeth, making them susceptible to breaking or loosening in their sockets. The pressures of teeth grinding can also cause gum recession.

TMJ doctors also worry about the effects of untreated TMJ on neighboring parts of the body, like the ears. Because the TMJ is located so close to the ears, when the muscles of the TMJ become inflamed, it can affect the sensitive ear canal. Untreated TMJ problems can lead to inner ear issues like tinnitus and hearing loss. Balance problems or chronic vertigo linked to inner ear problems are also a possibility.

Psychological Consequences

The profound psychological consequences of untreated TMJ problems should not be overlooked. Severe, unrelenting pain can cause or contribute to anxiety and/or depression. The effects of these disorders may negatively affect performance at work or in school, interfere with personal relationships, damage self-confidence and ultimately impact quality of life.

There is no reason to suffer from TMJ problems in silence when Ivan Stein is only a phone call away. If you experience symptoms that may be related to TMJ disorder, or you have been diagnosed with temporomandibular disorder (TMD), Dr. Stein is here to help. Request an appointment at the Headache & TMJ Center of New Jersey to discuss your case with him.