Can TMD Compromise the Immune System?

A compromised immune system puts every aspect of a person’s health in jeopardy. Without a fully functioning defense against infection, immunocompromised people are significantly more likely to experience health complications. One of the more surprising contributors to a compromised immune system is temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

What Connects TMD Symptoms and Immunosuppression?

TMD occurs as a result of a dysfunctional temporomandibular joint. How can TMD compromise the immune system? The temporomandibular joint is one of the most complex joints in the body and is closely tied to muscles and nerves throughout the body.Patients with TMD often have a compromised immune system. This correlation is due in part to:

  • Chronic stress
  • Digestive disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Other chronic conditions

Chronic Stress

TMJ dysfunction imposes strain on adjacent muscles and nerves. As the body attempts to compensate and reestablish balance, supporting muscles have to work harder and become more rigid. This consequence of TMD often manifests as poor posture but can also trigger the sympathetic nervous system. Once the sympathetic nervous system is engaged, the body is put into a fight or flight response which causes stress and acts as a significant contributor to immunosuppression.

Digestive Disorders

Because the TMJ is the primary joint used in chewing, people often have trouble eating. Painful chewing can cause TMD sufferers to not chew their food fully and instead rely more heavily on the rest of the digestive system. This series of events strains the digestive system, where 80 percent of a person’s immune tissue is located.Undigested foods can trigger alarms in your immune system, causing it to attack–in addition to messing up your immune system, this can also cause food sensitivities and inflammation.

Sleep Disorders

TMD is a primary contributor to obstructive sleep apnea. When the TMJ is not operating correctly, a person’s head posture can overcorrect by pulling forward and creating an obstruction in the airway. This obstruction can cause sleep apnea which can prevent people from reaching the restorative, deep phases of the sleep cycle responsible for the body’s ability to fight disease.

Other Chronic Conditions

Roughly 85 percent of patients with TMJ disorder also suffer from other conditions including allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disorders, and autoimmune diseases. In addition to the conditions listed, TMD can affect autoimmune disorders such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Lupus erythema
  • Scleroderma

Mitigating Health Risks With TMD Symptoms Treatment

TMJ dysfunction can affect several other systems and put sufferers’ health at risk for countless other diseases. Receiving an early diagnosis and starting TMD treatment early can protect more than just your oral health but your health as a whole. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Wallace about TMD, patients can call our office at (843) 410-0345 or visit our contact form.

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