Millennials are sleeping less and experiencing more stress than other generations - and this stress is manifesting itself in the form of temporomandibular joint disorder, according to a recent article published in Philly Voice.
Temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly known as TMJD or TMD, develops when the temporomandibular joints - also known as TMJS - that connect the lower jaw to the skull become worn down or out of alignment.
'These joints allow the jaw to move left to right, forward or backward, and open and close,' said Waco dentist Dr. Sean Endsley.
When the TMJs become worn or damaged, pain, stiffness, inflammation and dysfunction can develop.
Jaw dysfunction can affect eating and talking and can be scary when the jaw creaks, pops or locks during use.
A common cause of damage to the TMJs is teeth clenching or grinding, which can become a habit when individuals are under stress or suffer from anxiety.
'In most cases, people do not even realize they are clenching their jaw throughout the day, and they are often unaware they are doing it during sleep,' Endsley said.
In addition to pain, stiffness and dysfunction of the jaw, many people who suffer from TMD also experience tooth pain or damage; pain in the neck, back and shoulders; unexplained ear and facial pain; and frequent headaches.
'Clenching and grinding or a misaligned jaw can make the muscles that make the jaw movement tense and tight, which can cause pain in the head, neck, shoulders and back,' Endsley said.
According to American Family Physician, TMD affects up to 15 percent of adults, with the highest number of cases occurring between age 20 and 40.
But, many dentists have reported seeing an increase in TMD among patients under 35 due to stress.
Why Are Millennials So Stressed?
The American Psychological Association states that millennials report being more stressed or anxious than any other generation. In many cases (36 percent), that stress is job-related.
In many cases, the uncomfortable symptoms of TMD can be treated without surgery by a dentist. Conventional treatments for the condition include wearing oral appliances, physical therapy, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers and stretching.
'The good news is that TMD is a treatable condition, but it is important to recognize the signs of the condition when they start - to keep you from experiencing extreme pain or serious dysfunction,' Endsley said.
If not treated, more serious interventions, such as surgery or splints, may be required.
Psychology Today. Why Millennials Are so Stressed—and What to Do About It. 15 September 2015.
Philly Voice. Millennials' stress is physically manifesting in this part of the body. 13 February 2019.