Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) can be a painful and disruptive condition. At the start, you may seek the advice from your oral care provider for help. In mild cases, small changes can be made to offer relief. However, in more difficult cases, it is best to contact a TMJD specialist to find the underlying cause of the problem. Some causes may be stress and teeth clenching, jaw misalignment, muscle strain, arthritis, poor posture, and even infections. At other times, however, the cause may be less obvious and may come down to emotional, rather than physical factors.
We are often asked whether stress and anxiety are linked to TMJ and, in our experience, the answer is a definite ‘yes’. One of the main reasons that stress and anxiety can be described as silent diseases is that they never manifest directly. Rather, they cause a variety of physical conditions, which are themselves mistakenly diagnosed as causes. A common result of stress, for example, is the unconscious clenching of teeth and tensing of jaw muscles. As stressed individuals continue to do these things (largely unknowingly) over extended periods of time, they can tend to strain their facial muscles and possibly even cause damage to their temporomandibular joints.
The muscles of the jaw are operated and activated by the trigeminal nerve, which is the same nerve that controls our fight-or-flight response. When we are emotionally distressed or feeling high levels of anxiety, this nerve can become overactive, causing not only tension in the jaw but also strain on the joints.
So, remember, when you experience high levels of stress, that it could easily lead to jaw problems, among other conditions. Also, bear in mind, should you be experiencing TMJ symptoms, that they are usually a signal that you need to effect some kind of lifestyle change, including a possible reduction in stress.
Visit a TMJ doctor at the Head and Neck Centers of Excellence for any TMJ-related disturbances. We can evaluate your TMJD and determine your underlying cause and if you are a candidate for our exclusive AS remodeling Protocol. This involves rehabilitation and therapy of the neck, jaw and scalp muscles as well as the muscles of mastication. Call today for an appointment.