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Study evaluates risk factors for chronic TMJD

Thousands of Americans this year will be diagnosed with a common disorder of the jaw area called temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJD, formerly called TMJ). Because of the inherent biological complexity of TMJD, their healthcare providers will have no way to determine whether their patients will get better in time or battle chronic disease.

But research help is on the way. Scientists affiliated with a large, seven-year study supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the National Institutes of Health, have published the preliminary results of the most comprehensive and systematic analysis to date of risk factors associated with chronic TMJD. The findings are found in a special issue of the Journal of Pain, which now is available online to subscribers.

These initial results from the Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment (OPPERA) study provide a voluminous body of high-quality data that confirms many previous discoveries and adds several new possibilities for risk. These include:

In women, the risk for chronic TMJD increases between the ages of 18 and 44, the age range evaluated in the study. Previous studies have suggested that the risk was greatest during a woman's early childbearing years and decreased thereafter. In young men (ages 18-44), age was unrelated to TMJD incidence.

Chronic TMJD incidence does not correlate with low socio-economic status. This finding is in stark contrast to trends seen in other chronic pain conditions. Socio-economic status, for instance, has been shown to have a profound effect on musculoskeletal pain, sciatica, ulcer, and neuropathic pain.

Chronic TMJD seems to be associated with alterations in some parts of the nervous system that control pain perception. Researchers found that TMJD patients, when compared to healthy study volunteers, were much more sensitive to a variety of stimuli that ev

Contact: Bob Kuska
NIH/National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

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