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tmj, tmd, facial pain, new york tmj & orofacial pain, donald tanenbaum

Uncovering the Cause of a College Student’s Severe TMD – A Case Study

Author: Donald Tanenbaum DDS MPH - Board-Certified Orofacial Pain Specialist at New York TMJ & Orofacial Pain

Date: February 2, 2023

When she arrived at our office, “Amanda” was suffering from severe TMD symptoms. Her symptoms were extreme and characterized by debilitating headaches, jaw pain, inability to open her mouth wide or bring her teeth together properly, and she couldn’t eat anything of substance without additional suffering. This state of misery prompted her mother to come along, fearing that her daughter had some terrible illness. What she discovered is that even a wonderful experience, if it has the right elements, can cause TMD.

When Amanda’s history was revealed, and when I performed the exam, it was clear that her suffering was not a result of some underlying medical disease but due to common factors that pushed her jaw and neck muscles into a state of spasm. Having never experienced this type of problem before, Amanda couldn’t understand how she had gotten to this point of misery.

I went on to explain that muscles can only get to this degree of spasm when they have been pushed beyond their limits to a point of complete exhaustion. We then began to talk about what had gone on during the previous four months of her life. She’d recently returned home from her college semester abroad – four months of weekend excursions and endless arrays of parties, all characterized by the excitement that comes with exploring a new place. Her symptoms began even before she arrived home in the U.S.

At this point, her mother blurted out the acronym “FOMO!” and suddenly, we made the connection was made. Amanda’s fear of missing out had taken its toll. Her longstanding daytime teeth clenching and nail-biting (which had been previously tolerated), along with sleep deprivation and her state of perpetual exhilaration, were all directly related to the spasmodic state of her jaw and neck muscles.

With this awareness and education in place, the healing process began. Sleep restoration, sensible eating, reduced caffeine consumption, cessation of clenching and nail-biting, and a more reasonable social schedule helped to restore Amanda’s muscle health and comfort in a few short weeks.

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