Between the demands of work and family, your life is certainly full, but quite stressful. You are usually able to manage it pretty well, but lately, you have been feeling quite a bit of pain and stiffness in your jaw, and you seem to develop a tension headache every single day. Could this be the result of your stress? According to a dentist in West Seneca, yes. In fact, stress is one of the main risk factors for a problem that causes the exact symptoms you are experiencing: TMJ disorder. What is it, and better yet, what can you do to treat it so you have one less thing to worry about during the day?
The Connection Between TMJ Disorder & Stress
Stress is a common response to everyday situations, whether you are working on a deadline at the office, trying to be a strict parent at home, or commuting in between. In many cases, mental stress leads to physical tension, and it can manifest all around the body. For many people, this tension ends up in their jaw, leading to unconscious clenching and teeth grinding. Most have no clue that they are doing it throughout the day, and it often occurs only while a person is sleeping.
This constant clenching and grinding, which can happen for hours at a time during the night, exposes the teeth and jaw muscles to forces way beyond normal chewing. As a result, the teeth can become worn and cracked, and the jaw muscles develop strain and pain. This can radiate all throughout the head, leading to chronic headaches. This is a classic example of TMJ disorder, and it is actually one of the most underdiagnosed causes of migraines.
Common TMJ Disorder Symptoms
All of the following may be signs that you are dealing with a TMJ disorder:
- Constant popping and clicking in the jaw
- Persistent pain and soreness in the jaw
- Your jaw has become “stuck” while opening or closing
- Frequent headaches and/or earaches
- Chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, and even back
- Bruxism (nighttime teeth grinding)
What You Can Do About a TMJ Disorder
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, fortunately, getting treatment is rather easy. All you need to do is contact your dentist. In addition to the teeth, they also understand the delicate system that includes your mouth, jaw, head, and neck. They will be able to identify what is causing the problem, and if it is a stress-induced TMJ disorder, they can offer multiple options to handle it:
- Nightguard: This is a custom-made mouthpiece a patient would wear to bed, and it prevents the teeth from grinding together while also placing the jaw into a more comfortable orientation, both of which reduce pain.
- Exercises: To further alleviate any discomfort associated with a TMJ disorder, your dentist can show you specific exercises designed to relax and calm your tense jaw muscles.
- Stress-Reducing Techniques: Limiting stress can cut off a TMJ disorder at the root for many patients. Breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and many other practices can help lower a person’s stress level, and therefore reduce the tension that leads to pain in the jaw/head.
While stress is something everyone has to deal with, no one should have to cope with constant pain due to a TMJ disorder. If any of the symptoms listed above sound familiar, contact your dentist right away, and they will be able to remove a big distraction from your already busy life.
About the Author
Dr. Lee Shainbrown is a highly-experienced dentist who has been serving local families for decades. In addition to many general dentistry services, he and his team also provide comprehensive TMJ therapy in West Seneca. If a stiff, sore jaw and headache are just everyday occurrences for you, he can help you finally enjoy the relief you deserve. To learn more about your treatment options, he can be contacted through his website.