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Can Stress Cause TMJ?

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Teeth chewing and grinding from stress and anxiety-induced situations can cause inflamed jaw joints and muscles. This condition is known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder or TMJ. Symptoms range from earache, headache, pain in the jaw. TMJ is prevalent in men and women between the ages of 20 to 40 years and usually caused by biological, environmental, social, and emotional factors.

What Is TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint, called TMJ, connects the lower joint known as the mandible to the temporal bone or side of the head; it connects the jawbone to the skull. This joint can be felt by placing your fingers right in front of your ears and opening your mouth. Muscles here control the jaw joint’s position and movement and enable you to talk, chew, and yawn.

TMJ joint disorders are disorders of the jaw and chewing muscles. It is a collection of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction to the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. Pain ranges from mild discomfort to severe and debilitating pain that limits jaw functions. Temporomandibular joint disorders affect 15% of adults with a high occurrence at 20 to 40 years of age. Although prevalent in men and women, it is more common in women than men. There are two types of temporomandibular disorders:

Intra-articular disorders – occur within the joints.

Extra-articular disorders – involve surrounding musculature.

Symptoms range from jaw pain, earache, headache, and facial pain. Factors such as environmental, social, emotional, cognitive, and biological causes can trigger TMJ. These disorders can be temporary, occurring in occasional cycles and eventually go away or develop into long-term symptoms.

Related: End TMJ Pain Confusion

What Are The Symptoms Of TMJ?

One of the most common signs associated with Temporomandibular disorders is a pain in the jaw joint, chewing muscles or opening and closing of the mouth. There are, however, other symptoms linked to TMJ, such as:

  • Limitations of jaw functions
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Jaw pain that arises either when the jaw is at rest or being used
  • Pain in the face, jaw or neck when guy chews or speak
  • Stiffness in jaw muscles
  • Clicking, grating, or popping in the jaw when opening or closing your mouth, which is usually painful
  • Changes in the upper and lower teeth fit
  • Stiff locking of the jaw
  • Limited jaw movement
  • Swelling of the face

Symptoms may be mild or severe depending on the individual and disorder. Sometimes Temporomandibular disorders are short-lived, occurring only for a brief period and going away on their own. However, it may be more strenuous, requiring a much more complicated process for treatment.

When TMJ disorders are left untreated, they can lead to effects that may arise in long-term and prolonged cases and can affect various aspects of your daily life. Some effects of Temporomandibular joint disorders are:

  • Neck, back and shoulder pain or discomfort
  • Loss of hearing
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Hearing damages

What Causes TMJ?

There are no known causes of TMJ, although scientists say there may be a link between the disorder and female hormones since it occurs more in women than men. Some problems arise from issues with parts of the jaw. Pressure. exerting a lot of energy from activities such as constantly grinding or clenching your teeth can put tension on the joints and create problems.

Physical trauma – Heavy blows and injury to your jaw, joints, or muscles can also cause TMJ.

Stress – Anxiety, stress, and self-induced stressful situations can leave you with certain physical nervous habits like unconsciously clenching your teeth, jaw muscles or tightened facial expressions can lead to Temporomandibular disorders.

Teeth Misalignment – Tooth injuries from birth or misaligned teeth, gum chewing can all result in TMJ.

Arthritis – Joint inflammation due to age or underlying medical conditions can also lead to Temporomandibular joint pain.

Risk Factors of TMJ

Anyone can experience TMJ, however, there are some factors that increase your risks of developing TMJ. these are:

Gender. TMJ is more prevalent in women. This may be because there are certain hormones present in the female anatomy that increases the risk of some conditions. Treatment for TMJ is not restricted to specific age or gender.

Age – The age range for TMJ is between 18 to 44 years. One of the causes of Temporomandibular disorder is arthritis, which occurs more in older people.

Genetics – Individuals with a family history of stress, depression. Anxiety, or inflammation, can trigger the disorder and increase your risk of developing it.

Chronic Pain – Similar conditions that cooccur with TMJ can cause TMJ or aggravate disorders or pain.

Jaw Injury – Physical trauma, heavy blows or previous injury to the face or mouth can cause strain to your jaw joints and muscles.

Personal Habits – Habits such as constantly chewing and grinding of the teeth, especially activities that become chronic and long term, can trigger TMJ.

Arthritis – The most common type of arthritis associated with Temporomandibular disorders is rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Diseases – Diseases like connective tissue disease can affect surrounding jaw joints.

How Is Stress Associated With TMJ?

Stress is a natural response to situations. It arises when your body tries to react or adapt to situations. During these situations, adrenaline, one of the stress response hormones, is released. When this happens, your body’s reaction may be a one-time occurrence during stressful conditions or happen for a long period.

This stimulates habits that eventually affect your body and its functionality. Habits like restlessness, inability to sleep, nail-biting or chewing, teeth clenching, tightened facial expressions and other stress-induced habits can easily lead to Temporomandibular joint disorders.

Frequent occurrences of these habits can trigger or stimulate TMJ pain and disorders. While the effects of stress are not only limited to Temporomandibular joint disorders, it can also be linked to other consequences like restlessness, nervousness, irritability, mood swings, being quick to anger, difficulty with falling asleep or staying asleep.

These impacts are both linked to one another as stress can cause TMJ and recurrent Temporomandibular joint disorders can trigger stress.

Can Stress Cause TMJ?

Although stress is sometimes inevitable, it can be detrimental. Stress may be physical, mental, emotional, or psychological, whichever the case, it can lead to or increase existing disorders, infection, or medical conditions which includes Temporomandibular joint pain. Stress such as nervousness, restlessness can affect you in more ways than you can imagine.

Anxiety and stress can plague you with overthinking and worrying. You are occasionally tense, unrelaxed, with muscles constantly locked during the day or night. These influences of stress, like clenching or grinding the teeth, can trigger or contribute to tooth sensitivity, resulting in TMJ.

Related: End TMJ Pain Confusion

How Are TMJ Disorders Diagnosed

Before TMJ can be diagnosed, a questionnaire is carried where your dentist assesses your previous or current clinical history, description and duration of your pain, along with other symptoms, previous intervention and methods used, use of exacerbating factors.

Dentists note down noise coming from the joint area, deviation of your mandible from either opening or closing of the jaw, tenderness associated with muscles and joints, and other potential dental causes of pain.

A physical therapist is assigned in simple joint disorders to help with simple jaw exercises, while surgery is needed for more complicated issues.

How To Get Relief From TMJ

Temporomandibular joint disorders treatments do not require aggressive treatment methods. This can be done through conservative, reversible treatments and irreversible treatments.

Conservative treatments. This is a simple treatment process for temporary jaw joint and muscle conditions. It involves self-care practices to reduce stress and ease symptoms; they are:

  • Avoid extreme jaw movements like wide yawning, gum chewing,
  • Stick to soft foods
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, yoga.
  • Practice simple jaw exercises like jaw stretching to increase jaw movement. Contact your health care or physical therapist for exercise which suits you best.
  • Use of specific anti-inflammatory pain and muscle relaxants medications. Your doctor prescribes these medications based on your symptom and disorder.

Irreversible treatment methods involve surgery and implants to position and balance the bite. This method is much more complicated and severe with no proven effectiveness yet.


Temporomandibular joint disorders can frustrate daily activities and induce stress. TMJ is not restricted to gender or age, likewise its treatment options. Early intervention of treatment in TMJ onset is usually the best since it prevents further complications, however, you can visit your health centre or doctor for treatment recommendations. Practice relaxation techniques for stress reduction, discard personal habits that are detrimental to your health and focus on healthy lifestyle choices.

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