Many are often tempted to believe that a health issue of any kind is related to only one or two things. If you have acid reflux, it’s a stomach issue, or if you have a cavity, it’s an enamel issue, and so on. Like most things, however, the truth is much more complicated — especially with disorders like TMJ.

Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ, is an umbrella term used to describe many complications that can stem from the temporomandibular joint. While some doctors think jaw trauma is the root cause of symptoms, others blame jaw misalignment. Another little-known cause of TMJ might also be stress, which can affect the body in many ways. Because TMJ can cause pain, sometimes making it difficult to sleep at night, the two can become a cycle that is hard to break.

stressed out woman sitting at her work desk

The Relationship Between Stress and TMJ

The next time you’re dealing with a situation that is high-stress, take a moment to get a read on how your body is feeling. Is your heart racing? Are you clenching your teeth? Perhaps you’ve had the experience of waking up in the middle of the night to find that your jaw is sore because you’ve been grinding your teeth. Bruxism, the medical term for teeth grinding, is a common condition affecting a large percentage of people at one point in their life.

Most commonly, bruxism can lead to abnormal tooth wear on one side or even chipped or cracked teeth, but it can also add a lot of stress on the jaw. The temporomandibular joint can withstand a lot of pressure, and even regenerate tissue. The reason stress can be so destructive to the jaw is that it can become an ongoing issue. Bruxism will cause damage one night, and just as your body is trying to repair itself, the damage occurs again, leading to complications such as, low-grade inflammation.

Another worry is that, eventually, bruxism can lead to malocclusion, also known as a misaligned bite. Much like with bruxism, a bite that has become misaligned can add a significant amount of stress on the jaw when eating.

TMJ and Stress

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, TMJ can be incredibly painful, keeping you up at night or lessening the quality of your sleep. Not only can this pain create more stress, it can also trigger new symptoms, such as tingling fingers and headaches, which renews the cycle over again.

Finding a way to treat TMJ symptoms can go a long way in stopping the stress/TMJ cycle. If you’re tired of pain in your jaw, TMJ treatment can start by finding a neuromuscular dentist. When the cause of your TMJ has been identified, your dentist can suggest several drug-free treatment options centered on eliminating the damage done by tooth grinding, and relaxing your jaw with the use of TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation).

If you would like to learn more about TMJ treatment in Wilmington, NC, please call (910) 392-6060 or email Kuzma Advanced Dentistry.