Patients in pain first and foremost are concerned with their pain and how to alleviate it. TMD patients also worry about using their jaws—can they open wide, chew their food, speak, and otherwise express their feelings. Along with those worries come other concerns: trouble sleeping, feeling tired, simply not feeling up to doing what they normally would be doing at home or at work. Now a new study of TMD patients conducted by a team of German investigators led by Oliver Schierz at the University of Leipzig suggests that part of that not feeling up to snuff may be limitations in the ability to concentrate.
Dr. Schierz noted that few studies have explored cognitive functions in people with painful TMD. Not so for patients with fibromyalgia, he says, where negative effects on attention and memory have been reported and even referred to as “fibro fog”. On the basis of this knowledge, and in order to validate clinical observations, 286 patients with a diagnosis of painful TMD were asked about limitations in their ability to concentrate caused by problems in the area of the orofacial region. The resulting data were then compared with general population data based on a German regional survey.
The findings suggest that patients with painful TMD show a significantly higher percentage of an "often" or "very often" impaired ability to concentrate compared to the general population (24% vs. 1.2%). Men and women patients were alike in reporting problems with concentration. Moreover, in the group of patients with painful TMD, the impairment increased with the severity of their chronic pain in a dose–response fashion.
About Dr. Schierz. He is in the Department of Prosthodontics and Materials Science in the Medical Faculty of the University of Leipzig. His research interest is in dental anxiety and tooth wear as well as in the epidemiology of TMD with special emphasis on psychosocial factors.