TMJ Disorder: Will it get worse with stress?

As a common condition involving the dysfunction of the jaw joint, various types of TMJ disorders affect a large percentage of the adult population. The jaw joint consists of a sophisticated network of muscles, cartilage, and bone that function as a hinge that opens and closes the mouth. This network is responsible for our ability to speak and chew.

In health, the jaw joint is pain-free as it glides smoothly to open and close the mouth. When the joint is unhealthy, opening and closing becomes increasingly difficult, triggering a number of sometimes painful symptoms and significant damage. To reduce the impact and discomfort of TMJ disorder, a visit with your dentist is typically recommended. 

A professional dental exam is the most ideal way to determine the source of your TMJ concerns.

A professional dental exam is the most ideal way to determine the source of your TMJ concerns.

While many patients suffer from this condition regardless of outside factors, the most common, although unseen, contributor to the problem is stress. Physical stress, mental stress, and emotional stress can all lead to the onset of TMJ dysfunction or cause an existing disorder to become worse. Whereas you may notice an occasional tightness in the joint along with mild popping or clicking, stress can make the symptoms more frequent and more painful.

Clenching the teeth as you concentrate on your golf swing or while cycling, tension as you complete a lengthy project at work, or the stress of managing the challenges of daily life can keep your jaw muscles locked both day and night. Clenching and grinding the teeth can also contribute to damaged enamel, receding gums, and sensitive teeth.

Once the cause of the condition has been identified, it is possible to treat it appropriately. According to the extent of the disorder, one or more therapeutic measures may be employed:

  • When possible, it is helpful to try eliminating or reducing stress. Relaxation techniques, meditation, and light exercise are effective and conservative approaches for all patients.
  • When stress management is not sufficient, a custom dental appliance may be prescribed to protect the teeth and relax the muscles.
  • Medications that relieve pain and relax the muscles can help to soothe acute TMJ pain as you seek a long-term solution.

If you live with stress headaches, neck pain, and sensitive teeth, you may not have realized that your dentist can help. Contact our experienced and dedicated team at Howl Dental and schedule an appointment today to find out how.