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Exploring the Relationship Between Stress and TMJ

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Soreness in the jaw and chronic headaches may signal several health concerns, but if the pain and stiffness are located around your jaw, you most likely have a TMJ disorder. A TMJ condition can be exacerbated in times of stress.

What Does TMJ Mean?

TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, the "hinge" that allows you to open and close your jaw. People who suffer from TMJ disorder often have pain and tenderness in the jaw area, headaches or pain in the face, difficulty chewing, a clocking sound when they open and close their mouth, and sometimes even "lockjaw," where the jaw simply locks and won't move.

Your jaw joint functions as a hinge and by sliding back and forth. One of the most used joints in the body, it's a complex system of bones, ligaments, and muscles. It is vulnerable to damage, including cartilage damage, misalignment from an accident or blow to the head, or strain from grinding teeth.

How Are Stress and TMJ Disorder Related?

While some causes of TMJ disorder are apparent, others may not be. For instance, many people may grind their teeth or clench their jaw when stressed or angry. If you're in a situation where you experience chronic stress, such as a fast-paced job or challenging personal relationship, you may find yourself grinding your teeth or gritting your jaw more often, thus exacerbating the condition.

Moreover, when your body is under a lot of stress, it produces cortisol, which can increase inflammation throughout the body.

Treating stress-induced TMJ disorder can include having a night guard fitted to your teeth from your dentist to help reduce the effects of grinding your teeth at night. Other methods can involve reducing stress in your life, such as making lifestyle changes or seeing a counselor get to the root causes of stress in your life.

Learn How Our TMJ Specialists Can Help

Don't live with the pain and soreness of stress-affected TMJ disorder. At Aesthetic Smiles, we focus on the root cause of the problem rather than addressing the symptoms. We are also one of the few neuromuscular dentists in the Portland, OR, area. As such, our specialists are highly qualified to treat TMJ disorders. Give us a call to set up a consultation today!

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