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Older Adults and Treatment for TMJ

TMD/TMJ and its treatments

As hearing professionals, we often come across people with TMJ. It is something we always need to consider when we are taking an impression for a custom in-ear hearing aid or a custom tip for a slim tube BTE or a RIC. The problem is that the extra jam movement caused by TMJ actually forces a custom hearing aid or custom tip out of the ear. In order to get around this, we take open jaw impressions to ensure a tight fit which generally overcomes the problem. In this article, Lindsay Engle discusses TMJ, its causes and its treatments. Without further blah, over to Lindsay.

As we age, the strength of our jaws will diminish, which is typically caused by deterioration of the parts that bind the jawbone to the skull. When the components of the jaw decrease, it could result in a painful condition that is referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). This condition is known to increase among individuals as they age.

False teeth by Rawpixel on Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Why do the Effects of TMJ Increase with Age?

TMJ is often seen in older adults because the small discs that absorb shock could move out of the correct position or erode. In addition, arthritis or damaged cartilage may also lead to TMJ symptoms. With this condition, the hinge that binds the upper and lower jaw is damaged or doesn't function correctly, which causes the lower jaw to move back.

Also, dental restorations that include crowns and dentures can lead to TMJ if they are not correctly placed. Dentures can often contribute to TMJ because every tooth must be replaced, which is why dentures must be appropriately fitted to the mouth as well as the teeth.

A study that was published in the Journal of Oral Research found that one in three older adults will develop the condition. The study primarily focused on individuals over the age of 60. Participants in this study reported:

  • Face pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Reduced jaw mobility
  • Jaw locking

What are the Symptoms of TMJ?

Older adults who have TMJ may experience the following symptoms:

  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Grinding teeth
  • Buzzing in the ear
  • Muscle spasms
  • Discomfort speaking and chewing

In many cases, TMJ is seen in women more often than it is in men. However, a study that was published in the Mexican Journal of Odontology found that among older adults with TMJ, men reported more symptoms than women. Moreover, the study also noted that there are links between TMJ and poor oral health and dental problems, which may include bite disorders.

TMJ Prevention Tips

There are many useful ways to relieve the pain and stress from TMJ as well as ways to prevent the condition:

  • Avoid biting hard objects, which may include cuticles, pencils, fingernails, etc.
  • Stretch on a regular basis to relax joints
  • Take small bites
  • Chew on both sides of the mouth
  • Don't put your phone between your neck and shoulder
  • Practice and maintain good posture

How is TMJ Diagnosed?

A doctor will perform a physical exam to determine the range of motion in the jaw. In addition, BITE tests may also be administered as well as CT scans, MRI, and X rays.

Treatment for TMJ

Jaw Exercises

TMJ symptoms can be relieved by exercising the joint and improving range of motion. Physiotherapy exercises, which may include heat treatments, massages, and ultrasounds, are ideal ways to improve movement in the jaw.


Some orthodontic devices can help relieve teeth grinding and muscle spasms that are often seen with TMJ. Dental splints and night guards can be used while sleeping to reduce these symptoms. Some people have found that invisible aligners have helped minimize TMJ pain.


Resting the joint can ease the pain that is associated with TMJ. Numerous relaxation techniques can help, which includes holding your breath for a count of five and then exhaling. This slow breathing will help relieve the tension that can cause the symptoms of TMJ to flare up.


Some cases of TMJ are so severe that individuals may require surgery.


Botox or steroid injections are often used to help ease inflammation and other symptoms.

Pain Medication

Pain pills, antidepressants, or muscle relaxers are sometimes used to treat pain that is related to TMJ.

What Happens if TMJ is not Treated?

Although TMJ isn't a condition that is life-threatening, the symptoms can have a negative impact on your quality of life. If left untreated, TMJ can lead to severe headaches, pain in the back, shoulders and neck, and tinnitus.

Tinnitus is ringing in the ears and can also cause earaches. Moreover, tinnitus can also lead to permanent hearing loss and inner ear problems. Inner ear problems can cause balance impairment and Vertigo. TMJ can also compromise your vision.

A 2012 study also found that TMJ increases depression and anxiety as well as sleep impairment. The chronic pain that can be associated with TMJ may cause sleep loss, which significantly increases the risk of depression over time.

In addition, TMJ can also cause malnutrition and eating disorders. There are many individuals with TMJ who avoid eating or only eat a soft diet that lacks the nutrients that are needed to keep individuals healthy. Eating a well-balanced is essential for the overall health of older adults, which is why treatment for TMJ is so essential.

It is vital that any senior that experiences the symptoms of TMJ seek medical care. By treating the condition early, it will reduce the chances of severe pain and other symptoms that are seen with TMJ.

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Posted by Lindsay Engle

Lindsay Engle

Lindsay Engle

Lindsay Engle is the healthcare expert at MedicareFAQ, a learning resource center for senior healthcare. Lindsay loves working in the healthcare industry, especially with seniors. Aside from her job, she has a great passion for animals and loves boating. In her spare time, she enjoys snuggling on the couch with her pets as well as fishing with her boyfriend.

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