Is it really possible for a person with a perfectly healthy jaw to undergo wisdom teeth removal, only to come out of it with TMJ disorder?
How likely can the removal of one’s wisdom teeth ever outright cause TMJ problems?
“TMJ refers to the actual temporomandibular joints, but it is also a common name for a disorder that affects the facial muscles and joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull,” explains Jeffrey Haddad, DDS, of Doolin Haddad Advanced Dentistry in Rochester, MI.
“When a person’s bite is not in proper alignment and balance with the muscles and joints, a TMJ disorder can occur,” continues Dr. Haddad.
“This can happen early on in life or more often occur as we get older when our teeth and bite start to change or wear down.
“However, it can also be aggravated by a traumatic event. I have treated patients who were essentially ‘pain-free’ their entire lives and then been thrown into a TMJ pain spiral from events such as a rear-ending car accident, a slip and fall in a restaurant or an extended dental procedure such as a root canal or wisdom tooth extraction.
“However, in the majority of these cases, these patients already exhibited the signs and minor symptoms of a TMJ disorder, but were accommodating for several years.
“In regards to a wisdom tooth extraction, having a person’s mouth open for an extended period of time or excessive stretching of the mandible can place strain on the ligaments of the temporomandibular joint and its surrounding musculature, causing an imbalance in jaw posture.
“It is this aggravation from the procedure that can result in the muscular pain and tension.”
The resulting TMJ disorder
symptoms are as follows:
• Jaw pain and tension
• Neck pain
• Ear congestion
• Vertigo (dizziness)
• Tinnitus (ear ringing or a persistent hissing or buzzing sound inside the ear)
“In my opinion, a thorough exam of a patient’s occlusion, range of motion and presence of noise in the temporomandibular joints should occur prior to ALL dental procedures, including wisdom tooth extractions,” says Dr. Haddad.
“This would aid in proper identification of a person prone to developing a TMJ disorder prior to this procedure and the patient would be given informed consent.”