The Impact Of TMJ On Singaporeans - Recognising Symptoms and Seeking Relief

The Impact of TMJ on Singaporeans: Recognising Symptoms & Seeking Relief

Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMD), also known as TMJ Disorders, can cause a range of symptoms, from mild discomfort to pain. Regardless of the symptom, TMJ Disorders can interfere with everyday activities, and impact quality of life negatively.

We will explore the impact of TMJ on Singaporeans in this article, as it is important to recognise the signs early, in order to seek appropriate treatment for relief. Know that you are not alone, and that help or pain management is available in Singapore too.

*Disclaimer: Any reference to the terms ‘Orofacial Pain’, ‘Oral Medicine’, ‘specialist’ and ‘Fellowship(s)’ are made within the context of the USA and not Singapore. Please refer to our Disclaimers and FAQ pages for more information.

The Prevalence & Impact Of TMJ Disorders In Singapore

An article from the Raffles Medical Group in 2014 on “4 Jaw-dropping Facts about TMD” revealed that TMJ Disorders (TMD) have become a notable health concern amongst adults in Singapore. In their findings, approximately 40 – 60% of the adult population show signs of TMD, with women at a higher risk. It is also more common in people between 20 – 40 years of age.

This can be attributed to a variety of lifestyle, mental or habitual issues. The impact of TMJ on Singaporeans may be high due to the face-paced and highly stressful environments we live in, which can lead to jaw clenching and Bruxism (teeth grinding), and other TMD symptoms such as jaw pain, headaches, tinnitus, and other orofacial pain.

Many Singaporeans also hold office jobs that require us to sit behind a screen for hours, which leads to poor posture or excessive gum chewing. Such habitual actions can become subconscious, and place unnecessary strain on the TMJ (temporomandibular joint), which can lead to the development of TMJ Disorders.

Recognising Symptoms Of TMJ Disorders

1. Locked Jaw

A locked jaw is the most typical symptom of a TMJ Disorder, where you can’t open your mouth fully. It tends to worsen when the person tries to open their mouth wide, or when they chew harder foods. This can be distressing and scary for the patient.

A locked jaw is also known as a ‘closed lock’, and in rarer instances, patients can experience an ‘open lock’ or jaw dislocation, where they cannot close their mouth instead. If the jaw is locked in an open or close position, it is considered a medical emergency, and the patient should seek immediate help from a trained orofacial pain specialist.

Here at Nourish Dental Sleep & TMJ Care we have seen cases of both scenarios. Dr. Eric Chionh, who helms the clinic in Singapore, is a trained orofacial pain specialist and has helped many patients to manage both their TMJ issues, and to manipulate their TMJs back into position safely.

To learn more about TMJ Locked Jaw (“Closed Lock”) and Jaw Dislocation (“Open Lock”), read the following cases studies:

2. Limited Jaw Movement

Whilst you may not have a fully locked jaw, you can still experience limited jaw movement, and have difficulty opening or closing your mouth. This can make everyday activities such as eating, drinking and speaking a challenge.king a challenge.

3. Jaw Pain and Tenderness

Another primary symptom of TMJ Disorders is jaw pain and tenderness. This discomfort may be localised around the TMJ or jaw joints, or may radiate out into the orofacial region (mouth, jaws and face). The pain can range from mild to severe.

4. Clicking or Popping Sounds

Individuals with TMJ Disorders may notice clicking or popping sounds on either side of their jaw, when they open or close their mouths. These sounds may be accompanied by unusual sensations such as ‘electric shocks’, muscle spasms, soreness or another type of pain.

To learn more about various types of orofacial pain and sensations a patient can experience, read the following case studies from our clinic:

5. Headaches & Ear Pain

You might be surprised, but TMJ Disorders can also cause headaches, migraines, ear pain (Otalgia) or Tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The trigeminal nerve is one of the most widely distributed nerves in the head, and is responsible for sending pain signals and sensations to the brain. It also works in tandem with the TMJ to help with chewing and swallowing functions.

The TMJ is anatomically linked to the middle ear (Saldanha et al., 2012); In a clinical study of 164 patients, up to 42.1% of patients with Myofascial Pain Syndrome experience Tinnitus, and 41.5% of them ear pain (Fricton et al., 1985).

It is important to note that Tinnitus due to TMJ Disorders stem from a different origin, and hence treatment might differ from Tinnitus alone. It is important to seek a knowledgeable orofacial pain specialist to help with proper diagnosis and treatment.

Read the following case studies from our clinic to learn more:

The Impact Of TMJ On Singaporeans In Daily Life

Jaw pain and/or limited movement can make chewing food and drinking a painful task. Food choices might become limited to soft foods. Instead of enjoying their meals, patients might find eating stressful, and a chore that they dread. This can lead to a decrease in appetite, which may further lead to malnutrition.

Difficulty with speech is another frustrating impact of TMJ on Singaporeans. The pain or discomfort around the TMJ or jaw joints can make articulation difficult or uncomfortable. Patients may participate less in conversations either for work or during social interactions. This may cause them to isolate themselves, which may potentially lead to depression or negative feelings towards themselves.

The constant discomfort from TMJ Disorders can also disrupt sleep patterns, as patients might be constantly awoken from the pain, clenching or grinding. Or they may find sleep elusive due to the pain.

The results of such sleep disturbances seep into the day as well as patients experience fatigue and cognition issues. This in turn affects their productivity, mood, and overall well-being. This does not only affect the patient, but loved ones or colleagues around them, which can indirectly lead to other communication problems. Yet, the patient is still in pain and in need of help.

Seeking Help From A Trained Orofacial Pain Specialist For Relief From TMJ Disorders

In order to regain your quality of life and manage pain from TMJ Disorders, one must first be aware of the potential signs and symptoms. A trained TMJ doctor or orofacial pain specialist focuses on TMJ Disorders and orofacial pain issues, and can help to narrow down a diagnosis.

A proper diagnosis is crucial, as a misdiagnosis may lead to the wrong treatments being rendered, and sometimes the damage may be irreversible. At Nourish Dental Sleep & TMJ Care, we have seen many Singaporean TMJ patients who have undergone unnecessary treatments such as root canals, only to experience even more pain. You can learn more about red flags to watch out for when it comes to orofacial pain and TMJ Treatment in this post.

It is also important to seek help as soon as you can, as early diagnosis and treatment can help to curb complications that may arise from TMJ Disorders in the long run. Acute pain from TMJ Disorders tend to cause more pain initially, and treatment should be sought immediately so that there is no further damage to the jaw or orofacial region.

However, chronic pain from TMJ Disorders can be more insidious, as patients may try to ‘wait out’ the pain. This tends to compound the problem rather than solve it, so it is vital to visit a trained orofacial pain specialist, if you suspect a chronic TMJ Disorder as soon as you can.

Conclusion On The Impact Of TMJ On Singaporeans

TMJ Disorders are a problem globally, especially with the increase in stress in modern society. A significant portion of the Singaporean population also suffer from TMD, which often manifests as jaw pain, limited jaw movement, clicking or popping sounds in the jaw points, and other discomforting symptoms.

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of TMJ Disorders is essential, so that you can seek help early to help manage the pain, and to try and prevent long-term damage that may result from them. A trained orofacial pain specialist or TMJ dentist/doctor can help with diagnosis and management of TMJ Disorders, and it is important to work with them in order to regain quality of life.

What We’ve Seen In Our Singaporean Patients At Nourish Dental Sleep & TMJ Care

We have seen all sorts of TMJ cases and patients at our clinic in Singapore, from Locked Jaw, to Jaw DislocationTinnitus from TMJ DisordersSinusitisTrigeminal Neuralgiaheadache disorders, and patients with pain in multiple areas such as the head, jaw and neck. In many cases, patients often come to us thinking that they have a toothache, when in fact it is a TMJ Disorder.

Interestingly, we are also seeing an increase in worn out joints (osteoarthritis / osteoarthrosis) in progressively younger demographics. Whilst there are no clear studies done on this yet, it might be attributed to the increase of stress in modern lifestyles, which is a known trigger for TMJ Disorders.

How Nourish Dental Sleep & TMJ Care Can Help with TMJ Disorders in Singaporeans

Dr. Eric Chionh Chye Kiat runs the practice at Nourish Dental Sleep & TMJ Care in Singapore, together with a dedicated team. He has over 20 years of hands-on experience in TMJ Disorders, pain management, and sleep and pain dentistry. He is passionate about his work, and aims to improve his patients’ quality of life using evidence-based medicine. He is on the constant lookout for the latest scientific and dental literature, in order to learn how he can best help his patients.

Dr. Eric Chionh is not only a Fellow of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP), but also an Academic Fellow of the American Academy of Oral Medicine (AAOM). He holds a Singapore Dental Council approved qualification in these areas.

As a dentist who is trained in Oral Medicine in addition to Orofacial Pain, it means that he is knowledgeable about oral pathology and oral radiology, and may order and interpret such test results as well. He is also aware of how comorbidities might interact with dental or TMJ Disorder issues. You can view the full list of conditions that Oral Medicine covers on the AAOM website.

For more information and help on other TMJ, pain and sleep dentistry treatments, visit these pages:

You can learn more about Dr. Eric Chionh and his credentials on our About page, and view all services provided by Nourish Dental Sleep & TMJ Care Care here.

References:

  • Saldanha, A. D. D., Hilgenberg, P. B., Pinto, L. M. S., & Conti, P. C. R. (2012). Are temporomandibular disorders and tinnitus associated?. CRANIO®, 30(3), 166-171. https://doi.org/10.1179/crn.2012.026