Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ may not be the first disorder that comes to mind when people think of chronic pain, but studies have shown that TMJ sufferers report “high disability pain.” The jaw pain that accompanies TMJ can make basic daily tasks like chewing or even speaking into excruciating experiences.
Despite the high numbers of people who suffer from chronic pain across the United States — about 25 million by some estimates — it can still be a challenge to find a doctor who cares. The internet is littered with accounts of patients who saw a half dozen doctors before finally finding someone who took their pain seriously enough to find the correct diagnosis. This may be part of the reason why so many cases of TMJ go undiagnosed.
But when it comes to how medical professionals respond to this pain, there may be another factor impacting how seriously TMJ pain is taken: gender.
Do We Write Off Women’s Pain?
In a 2001 study published in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, results showed that not only is women’s pain treated less aggressively than men’s, but that women report suffering more severe levels of pain more frequently and for longer than men do. In others words, women’s pain is often worse, but they receive less treatment for it. And when women do report pain, they’re more likely to be prescribed a sedative than a painkiller for it.
This dated notion that women are just being dramatic or overly sensitive has a real impact on how medicine handles women’s healthcare. For example, endometriosis, an acutely painful disease that impacts the tissue lining of the womb, has long been under-researched and under-funded thanks to decades of being written off as “women’s troubles.”
Are You a Woman Suffering from Jaw Pain?
When it comes to TMJ, women have actually been found to be slightly more likely to suffer from the disorder than men. Unfortunately, this bias in chronic pain diagnosis and understanding may lead to female TMJ patients not getting the care that they need. Combined with the complexity of TMJ and the ways in which it can differ from patient to patient, that can make the entire process from diagnosis to treatment incredibly frustrating and painful.
If you’re experiencing other symptoms like vertigo, frequent headaches, or pain in the neck and shoulders, it’s time to seek help.
Your Dentist Can Help
Scheduling an appointment with a dentist who specializes in treating TMJ can be the first step to alleviating your chronic pain. Measuring your jaw position and bite, a dentist can begin to understand the underlying factors of your TMJ, suggesting a treatment plan catered to your mouth. Treatments can include the use of a bite splint, which allows your jaw to rest in a comfortable position during sleep, so that it can begin to heal itself.
If you’re having TMJ problems, give us a call at (907) 349-0022 or Contact us to let us at Excellence in Dentistry help today!