Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), located on each side of your face just below your ears, is one of the most complex joints in the human body. Thanks to these joints, your jaw can open and close and move from side to side. Without your temporomandibular joints, chewing, speaking, yawning, and laughing would be impossible!
While the TMJ allows pain-free movement of your jaw, for some people, this isn’t the case. Muscle tension, inflammation, and odd noises can all accompany TMJ disorders, in which the joint doesn’t function properly or is painful when moving. Could TMJ disorders be caused by stress and anxiety?
Muscle Tension From Stress Can Trigger TMJ Disorders
It’s certainly possible that anxiety can trigger a TMJ disorder . Anxiety can cause related stress and muscle tension, which can affect the muscles supporting your temporomandibular joints. Anxiety can cause your body to initiate its “fight or flight” response to a real or perceived threat. Your muscles naturally tense when reacting to a threat, but when tensed for too long, such as in chronic stress or anxiety, muscle pain is often the result.
For others, stress can be a “significant” factor in TMJ disorders . Stress can not only lead to muscle tension, but can also increase your risk for teeth grinding, which can also influence the onset of a TMJ disorder. When it come to problems with the jaw, stress and anxiety should always be considered as potential risk factors.
Stress and Anxiety Play Into Other Risk Factors for TMJ
For many, TMJ disorders are caused by a combination of factors, which can all influence each other. Some of the most significant risk factors for TMJ problems include trauma to the jaw, arthritis (which can affect the joints), teeth grinding, and an improper bite . Combined with stress and anxiety, any of the risk factors can lead to a TMJ disorder.
A study of over 4,000 people found that depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are all linked to muscle pain . Why? Authors say these disorders can cause muscle hyperactivity and abnormalities, which can increase pain and inflammation in the body. The result could be problems with your TMJ.
How Should TMJ Caused by Stress and Anxiety Be Treated?
Since TMJ disorders are complex and can be caused by multiple factors in a person’s life, your treatment should be customized based on what’s causing your symptoms. Often, this means having your dentist evaluate your smile for signs of teeth grinding, an improper bite, muscle tension, and other signs that could point to why you’re experiencing TMJ symptoms.
But treatment can also mean evaluating your stress and anxiety levels in your daily life. Often, reducing your stress and properly managing your anxiety can help you better manage your TMJ symptoms and even make other treatments more successful. Do you suffer from TMJ? Make an appointment with your dentist to find out if stress and anxiety could be behind your symptoms!