Jaw Pain – One Of The Many Possible Symptoms Of Menopause


Scientists have been studying menopause for years. They have listened to the women gripe about the symptoms that come with it. The latest research has discovered that there may be a strong connection between estrogen and pain experience. One would be discomfort in the jaw area, or TMD.

TMD, or what is also known as temporomandibular disorders, comes from a group of more than 30 conditions that bring about pain and dysfunction in the jaw and joint muscles.

Menopause Symptoms

What comes to mind when you think about menopause? What are the symptoms that go with this transition? Many report of experiencing hot flashes, interrupted sleep, and irritability. This may be the most common reported symptoms and it doesn’t come as a surprise because you’ll probably learn that the loss of estrogen that happens during this time may also have an impact on how women’s bodies process pain. Specific to this is jaw pain.

A study has been published last May 10 in the journal Menopause. Researchers noticed that jaw pain, which is common type of musculoskeletal pain, is aggravated during menopause. This comes second only to back pain in reports.

“This study reinforces the known relationship between sex steroids, specifically estrogen, and the experience of pain,” said Stephanie Faubion, MD. She is an internal medicine doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. She’s also the medical director of the North American Menopause Society. She spoke about this in a release. Dr. Faubion also said somethings, but was not involved in the research.

All about TMD

TMD, or temporomandibular disorders, comprises of a group of more than 30 conditions that bring about pain and dysfunction. These often happen in the jaw and joint muscles. This condition is sometimes referred to as TMJ, which stands for temporomandibular joint. However, this refers to only to the joint itself. The conditions aren’t covered with TMJ.

We all have two TMJs, one on each side of the jaw. You can find them by placing your fingers in front of your ears and then opening your mouth. Statistics estimated that that 4.8 percent of the adults in the U.S. adults, or an estimated number of 12 million people, have experienced a form of pain in the temporomandibular joint region. This was  according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Women are twice more to develop TMD. In fact, and a research suggests that the condition may be brought about hormonal changes.

TMD comes with a few symptoms, and the most common symptom of which would be pain felt in the chewing muscles or the jaw joint. This discomfort spreads along the face or neck, then there are feelings of the following:

  • Jaw stiffness
  • Limited movement or locking of the jaw
  • Painful clicking or popping sound as you open or close the mouth
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing loss
  • Change in how the upper and lower teeth fit.

Women Going through Late Menopause are More Likely to Experience Jaw Pain

The team of authors wanted to see if TMD could be linked to menopausal symptoms. In order to check, they asked 74 women suffering from the condition. They then were placed into one of three groups. This was based on their menopause status: late menopause transition, early post-menopause, and late post-menopause. They then evaluated for the differences in the severity of the TMD-related pain they were experiencing.

The authors of the study saw that those who belonged to the late-menopause transition stage experienced a more intense TMD pain. The authors also observed that menopause symptoms such as hot flashes were further linked with the TMD-related pain. Both of the considered factors lessened with age and their progression with the post-menopausal phase. Moreover, the findings of the study saw that socioeconomic factors such as education and ethnicity had an impact on the TMD symptoms for those going through early post-menopause.

The results they gathered were unique when it came to exhibiting how TMD symptoms are connected and correlated to the menopause symptoms. These managed to manifest in different ways all throughout the different menopause stages, said Faubion. “More study is needed to identify factors, such as low education, that influence these associations as well as strategies to mitigate bothersome TMD and menopause symptoms in midlife women,” she said.

The Role of Hormones in the Severity of Jaw Pain

Levels of estrogen and other hormones fluctuate and change during menopause, pregnancy, and menstruation. These are related to the increase or decrease of TMD symptoms, says Jeffry Shaefer, DDS, MPH. He is an assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery, a clinical associate at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston, and a former president of the America Academy of Orofacial Pain. Dr. Shaefer was not part of the research team but has knowledge on it. “For instance, female patients with TMD symptoms can experience a decrease in jaw joint pain during pregnancy,” he said.

Recent epidemiologic studies made have also demonstrated how TMD can commonly affect women of childbearing age, some of their TMJ and associated symptoms continue to persist even after menopause. “Usually, arthralgia (pain) associated with osteoarthritis of the TMJ will dissipate as patients get older — for example, after menopause,” said Shaefer.


TMJ or TMD Pain Medication and Solution

“Patients experiencing TMJ or TMD pain during menopause can seek reversible treatments on the advice of their dentist,” said Shaefer. If the patient is able to manage the acute symptoms of TMD, then the chances of the problems to become chronic are less unlikely, he added.

For patients seeking help, the experts such as dentists and physical therapists specializing in TMD care are available to help them manage their needs. They are part of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain (AAOP) organization.