Does stress have you gritting your teeth?
It may be a bigger problem than you think.
TMJ pain can affect your bite, how you chew… even your sleep patterns!
From political upheaval, economic uncertainty, and social change, there is more than ever to be stressed about. From workplaces to schools, social media is also increasing scrutiny and self-consciousness, especially on our children and teens. In fact, one study in Psychology Today study showed that modern high school students experience anxiety levels equal to the average patient in 1950’s mental institutions.
Some health professionals are are pointing out that one of the less-obvious results of higher stress levels is an increase in Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and muscle disorders, collectively known as TMDs. In our popular blog post last year, we showed how the long-term effects of teeth-grinding (Bruxism) and other TMJ-related disorders can be detrimental to your overall health.
What is TMJ?
The TMJ connector is one of the most complex joints in the body, combining both a typical ball and socket with a sliding hinge that allows us to effectively chew a variety of foods. TMDs are typically classified in three categories:
- Myofascial pain – discomfort or soreness around the muscles controlling jaw function
- Internal joint derangement – involves a displaced disc, dislocated jaw or injury to the condyle, the rounded end of the jawbone
- Arthritis – degenerative/inflammatory disorders that can affect the joint
The pain from minor TMJ problems may sometimes resolve itself, but persistent discomfort can be a telltale sign of more serious TMD. Common complaints include:
• Headaches (similar to migraines), earaches, or pain/pressure behind the eyes
• Clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing your mouth
• Pain that comes while yawning, widely opening the mouth or chewing
• Jaws that feel like they “get stuck,” lock up or pop out of place
• Consistently sore or tender jaw muscles
• Sudden change in your bite, or how your upper and lower teeth fit together
TMD can have long-lasting negative impacts on your oral and overall health. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment to have our professionals at Meyer & Johns Dental assess your situation.
The top ways to alleviate TMD symptoms, according to Colgate’s online Oral Care Center:
• Medication – try to eliminate muscle spasm and pain by applying moist heat or taking medication, such as muscle relaxants, aspirin, other over-the-counter pain-relievers/anti-inflammatory drugs.
• Night guard – reduce the harmful effects of tooth clenching/grinding with a night guard or splint.
• Relax – learning relaxation techniques to help control muscle tension in the jaw. Your dentist may suggest you seek training or counseling to help eliminate stress.