Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction and GERD

Woman pointing to heart

When you have temporomandibular joint dysfunction, the pain in your jaw and upper body is bad enough. From your jaw to your back, the pain from TMJ dysfunction often radiates throughout, even to places that don’t seem like they’d be affected by your temporomandibular joints. One such place was recently revealed in a new study conducted by the Dental College of Georgia in Augusta and the Fourth Military Medical University in Xiang, China. In the study, the research teams discovered that people with TMJ dysfunction are at a higher risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and those with GERD are at a higher risk of developing TMJ dysfunction! Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition of the lower esophageal sphincter that causes acid indigestion and heartburn, but if you look at a diagram of the human body, isn’t really located near the temporomandibular joint. So how could these two conditions be related or influencing each other? Researchers don’t really know. There are theories, though. One theory is that the stress and pain of having TMJ dysfunction is causing the acid indigestion and heartburn associated with GERD. Another theory is that the GERD pain is causing the temporomandibular joint dysfunction by causing the affected person to clench their jaw in pain. While both theories have merit, they’re still just theories, and as such don’t do much to help patients. But there is good news. There are mutually beneficial ways to treat both of these potentially co-morbid conditions. First, if you think you may have GERD, speak to a gastroenterologist about treating this condition either with prescription or over-the-counter medication. There may also be dietary changes you can make to lessen your GERD symptoms such as avoiding citrus, sodas, alcohol, greasy or fried foods, and spicy foods. If you have temporomandibular joint dysfunction, there are also steps you can take to lessen symptoms, such as physical therapy, warm compresses, massage and neuromuscular orthodontics. Neuromuscular orthodontics can help reposition the jaw so that the temporomandibular joint is better aligned, reducing pain and hopefully GERD symptoms, too. To learn more about temporomandibular joint dysfunction and neuromuscular orthodontics, please contact Dr. George at 724-220-2347.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on September 17th, 2019