The Strange Connection between TMJ Disorder, Stress, Anxiety & Depression

November 9, 2017

Filed under: Blog,TMJ Treatment — tntadmin @ 10:45 am

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known simply as TMJ or TMD, is a condition that affects the hinge or joint connecting the upper and lower jaw. Chronic pain and other issues are common when this joint is not working as it should. People who suffer from this disorder often face depression, anxiety and stress as well.

Here’s what the research says about TMJ anxiety:

  • A 2002 study by the National University of Singapore found that people with myofascial joint pain had higher levels of depression than those with only disk displacements.
  • An International Journal of Prosthodontics study from 2006 found that patients with TMD had higher levels of depression, and psychological factors play a role.
  • According to a Journal of Pain article from 2013 (based on a German research study), there is a moderate to strong link between depression and TMJ disorder.

What is the relation between stress and TMJ?

Severe teeth grinding or Bruxism can cause chronic pain which can lead to chemical changes in the brain whihch is why TMJ pain often turns to TMJ stress and TMJ depression. It’s harder for people dealing with chronic pain to handle changes in their environment, daily tasks and more. This can lead to TMJ anxiety or depression, even if there’s no direct cause-and-effect relationship linking these conditions.

How do TMJ symptoms cause or increase anxiety?

  1. Dizziness– TMJ affects blood vessels and nerves that go through the back of your jaw, and this can lead to neurological symptoms such as dizziness. This often happens suddenly and with no warning, causing significant amounts of anxiety or stress.
  2. Headaches– TMJ can cause morning headaches in many cases, which affects the way you start your day. In addition to the discomfort caused by TMJ or TMD headaches, studies suggest that starting your day on the wrong note raises anxiety levels as well.
  3. Chronic Pain– A common symptom of TMJ disorder is frequent and consistent pain in the jaw, temples or other parts of the face. Research shows that chronic pain, caused by your body’s attempt to deal with constant stress, could be a trigger for anxiety.
  4. Clicking Jaw– Temporomandibular joint disorder often causes a popping or clicking sensation in the jaw, which can lead to emotional distress if you don’t know what it is. You may also be blinking too often, which can be disturbing and even frightening.
  5. Tinnitus– Most people tune out the “ringing” sound in their ear, but this becomes more difficult to do if it’s loud or constant. Tinnitus caused by TMJ can lead to loss of sleep, distraction and anxiety, even though we don’t yet understand why this happens.
  6. Other TMJ Symptoms– Since TMD disorder affects nerves, it can lead to various other neurological symptoms linked to anxiety. Examples include involuntary muscle movements, numbness in limbs, tingling in extremities, and even impaired thinking.

TMJ can make existing symptoms of these conditions worse. Chronic pain and inflammation have been known to trigger anxiety-like symptoms in many cases, and other TMJ symptoms may also lead to increased stress, depression and anxiety.

How reducing stress can help you ease your TMJ symptoms?

When you are stressed, your muscles including those in your temporomandibular joint or TMJ get tight and sore. Your muscles stay overworked and cause pain and stiffness. Similarly, if you are experiencing TMJ symptoms, it affects your routine activities and can induce stress. This creates a cycle between TMJ and stress.

The key here is to make efforts to reduce stress or completely eliminate it. Consult a TMJ specialist to learn about what type of TMJ pain treatment techniques can help your case. Similarly, if you are grinding your teeth or are experiencing other symptoms of TMJ, consult a TMJ specialist who can help you relax your muscles, protect your teeth and address other TMJ symptoms.

How to relieve TMJ pain due to stress?

Here are a few effective ways to ease or relieve TMJ pain due to stress:

  • Exercise, meditation, laughing out loud, getting some fresh air, etc., can help you handle stress effectively.
  • Simple, quick stress relief practices such as breathing exercises, calming aroma therapy, relaxing your jaw if you notice yourself clenching it etc., can help you ease TMJ pain.
  • Get a massage therapist to massage your jaw muscles. The advantage of this treatment is that it can prove beneficial in addressing both physical and physiological aspects of the pain.
  • Ask a TMJ specialist to fit you with a mouthguard since it hinders teeth grinding and protects the teeth.

 If you’re suffering from temporomandibular disorder and anxiety, stress or depression, it’s a good idea to seek treatment. Controlling your TMJ symptoms can help reduce other secondary symptoms as well. Even if the disorder isn’t actually the main cause of your anxiety or depression, it can make these issues worse.
You may need to seek medical advice for severe anxiety or depression, but an experienced dentist can help you with TMJ treatment. If you think TMD is causing stress or making existing issues worse, visit Dr. Joshua Hong’s clinic in Goodyear AZ for evaluation and treatment today!