Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system condition that affects around 10 million Americans each year. Parkinson's causes changes in the muscles and nerves, which can make muscles rigid and cause tremors and problems with movement. The disease has no cure, and to make matters even more complicated, a new study has linked the condition to another painful problem: temporomandibular joint disorder.

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMD, affects the temporomandibular joints of the jaw. These joints connect the lower jaw to the skull and allow you to move it left to right, up and down and side to side.

TMD develops when the joints become worn down, which creates swelling and inflammation that may be painful or affect movement.

TMD also affects about 10 million Americans. Symptoms of the condition include muscle stiffness, but unlike Parkinson's, this stiffness is contained to the area of the jaw, neck, back and shoulders.

While Parkinson's disease is neurodegenerative, and TMD is caused by joint degeneration, there's a connection between the two.

This connection was revealed by a study from Taiwan published in the journal PLoS One. This research shows that individuals living with Parkinson's disease could have an increased risk of developing TMD.

The study was conducted over 13 years of review data collected from National Health Insurance (NHI) recipients in Taiwan. Just over 6,180 of the participants in the study had Parkinson's disease and 18,555 patients did not.

More than half of the data came from male subjects; men are one and a half times more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than women. (Interestingly, women suffer from TMD more than men.)

The data showed that 32 cases of TMD developed in the Parkinson's disease group (a much smaller group) and 50 cases of jaw disorder developed in the group without Parkinson's disease. This means the rate of developing TMD for those living with the condition were higher than for those living without Parkinson's.

While the connection is not yet clear, one theory is that the stiffness of the muscles experienced by Parkinson's disease patients develops in the jaw, too - which triggers TMD development and symptoms.

Overall, the Parkinson's disease group were four times more likely to develop TMD than those who did not have Parkinson's. The researchers also found that the longer an individual lives with Parkinson's disease, the greater the chance of developing TMD.

Are you living with Parkinson's disease? If so, call Legends Dental to schedule an exam to talk about your jaw joints and potential for developing TMD. Give us a call now at 254-799-9540.