Losing Weight Benefits More Than Just the Waistline

You already know that maintaining a healthy body weight is key to living a long, active life, and that losing weight can help prevent myriad illnesses, from diabetes to heart disease to cancer. But what you may not realize is that maintaining a healthy weight can also help ease the symptoms of another painful condition that affects millions of people each year: temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJD.

Temporomandibular joint disorder occurs when the temporomandibular joint (the joint that connects the lower jaw to the rest of the skull) is out of alignment. This misalignment can cause a painless – but sometimes annoying – popping or clicking sound when the jaw moves, jaw pain, teeth grinding, headaches, trouble opening and closing the mouth, back aches, neck soreness, tinnitus (ringing of the ears), poor posture, and a long list of dental problems that occur as a result of teeth grinding and a bad bite.

But what many people don’t realize is that TMJ disorder symptoms can be eliminated or greatly reduced as a result of losing weight and maintaining a healthy body weight. Why? Because your TMJ is a joint – and just like with your knee joints, ankle joints, hip joints and any other joint in your body, when you weigh less, your joints have less work to do.

But, why would a joint in your jaw benefit from a lower body weight when your jaw isn’t a weight-bearing joint? According to researchers at the University of Michigan Weight Loss Program at Michigan Medicine, the answer is something called interleukin-10. Interleukin-10 is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory molecule that is present when the body is healing from injury. But while the link between interleukin-10 and injury is widely documented, researchers were surprised to see that the body’s stores of interleukin-10 dramatically increased following weight loss – meaning that instead of the added strain on joints being directly caused by excess weight, it could have more to do with low levels of interleukin-10 causing inflammation. By losing excess weight, even non-weight-bearing joints like your temporomandibular joint can benefit!

If you are or believe you may be overweight, speak to your primary care physician about beginning a weight-loss program. If you have or believe you may have temporomandibular joint disorder, speak to Dr. George about beginning a neuromuscular therapy treatment to treat your TMJ disorder symptoms. If you are undergoing a weight-loss program alongside your TMJ disorder treatment, be sure to note any changes in your TMJ disorder symptoms as your weight decreases.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. George, please call 724-220-2347.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on August 17th, 2018