Even before scientists invented ways to launch humans into space, people have called space the next great frontier. In recent years, technology has brought us closer to breaking free of the Earth and exploring other planets. Although technology is on its way, space travel takes a toll on the human body. Physical and mental stress from the journey could even increase painful flare-ups of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and related symptoms.

TMJ On a Mars Flight

A study published in May 2013 tested the association between sleep deprivation and stress in individuals with TMJ during a simulated Mars mission. The study included 24 healthy crew members, and tested each participant’s sleep quality, orofacial pain, and other factors.

After just 6 days of the simulated mission, 15 crew members reported suffering from jaw pain. A dental examination found that 5 crew members experienced simple muscle pain, while 10 suffered from TMJ, and 9 remained unaffected. In the end, the study concluded that extreme conditions increased stress levels and sleep deprivation, which they associated with TMJ.

Stress and Your Jaw Joint

Crew members on the simulated Mars expedition likely developed TMJ as a result of physical and mental stress. During the simulated mission, participants performed operations in an extreme environment that had a heavy impact on their body and emotional state. In order to fully simulate a Mars mission, the crew was isolated, and had to maneuver in a small space while utilizing limited resources. These conditions put stress on all participants.

Stress causes tension in your jaw muscles that can lead to TMJ flare-ups. Stress increases the tendency to clench and grind your teeth, which fatigues jaw muscles, and can misalign your jaw joint.

Preventing TMJ on Real Mars Missions

NASA has high hopes of sending a crew of astronauts on a mission to settle Mars in the next decade or so. Preventing TMJ in the pioneering astronauts will help NASA ensure that recurring pain does not detract from individual focus that could cause catastrophic mistakes. NASA could potentially solve the problem by equipping each astronaut with an oral orthotic device (bite splint) to prevent tooth grinding under stress.

Treating Your TMJ Pain

Astronauts are not the only people at risk for painful flare-ups. If you experience jaw clicking and popping, radiating facial pain, tension headaches, or tinnitus (phantom ringing in your ears), non-surgical TMJ treatment can help reduce your discomfort.

At the TMJ and OSA Center, Dr. Lowrance works with you to create a custom treatment plan in order to alleviate your symptoms. Your treatment starts with a comprehensive assessment to determine the cause of your pain and the ideal position for your jaw. Next, Dr. Lowrance can create a bite splint to reposition your jaw. Depending on the cause of your symptoms, changes to your teeth might also be necessary in order to create a more even bite that will allow your jaw to close properly.

We know that your symptoms can impact your life in big ways. If you would like to learn more about how non-surgical TMJ treatment can help you manage your TMJ symptoms, please contact Dr. Lowrance’s office at (361) 851-8274 for a consultation.