Temporomandibular joint dysfunction already causes immense pain in the jaw, upper body, back, neck and other areas of your body you wouldn’t think TMJ to affect. One of these unusual areas in your body that TMJ affects is actually your digestive system. Recent studies have shown a link between TMJ and GERD – gastroesophageal reflux.
What is GERD?
GERD is a digestive disorder that affects the muscle between the stomach and the esophagus – the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). It’s common to experience heartburn and indigestion from GERD, especially pregnant women.
Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the contents of your stomach go back into the esophagus. With normal digestion, the LES opens up to allow food and drinks to pass into your stomach and then closes up to prevent stomach acids and food from going back into the esophagus. When gastroesophageal reflux takes place, the LES doesn’t close properly due to it being weak or too relaxed. This then causes your stomach contents to flow back into your esophagus.
How are GERD and TMJ Related?
In a recent study conducted by the Fourth Military Medical University in Xiang, China and the Dental College of Georgia in Augusta, they found that those who have TMJ dysfunction have a higher risk of developing GERD, and those who have GERD have a higher risk of developing TMJ. In other words, if you have TMJ or GERD, you need to watch out for both disorders.
So how exactly do these two conditions influence each other? Although the study found that the conditions were related, they were unable to confirm why. There were several different theories, however. One of the theories was that the stress and pain from TMJ caused indigestion associated with GERD. Another theory suggests that those with GERD tend to clench their jaw due to the pain caused by GERD which then causes TMJ.
Although these theories seem probable, they’re not proven which doesn’t help patients who suffer from both.
What can help patients who suffer from TMJ is TMJ treatment from Dr. Firouzian at Smile Columbia. If you suffer from TMJ symptoms like jaw pain, frequent migraines, neck and back pain, or hear popping or clicking when you open or close your jaw, please schedule a consultation with us. We will give you a thorough examination using state-of-the-art dental technology to create the perfect TMJ treatment plan.