TMJ Disorders: Will it get worse with stress?

There’s no denying that we live in a stressful world. Work commitments, family obligations and seemingly endless lists of daily errands can wear us down and leave us with little time for relaxation.

The health problems associated with stress are well documented, but did you know that all of this stress can contribute to oral health problems, too? Oral surgeons recognize that stress can be a major factor in temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which are painful conditions that arise from problems with the jaw.

TMJ disorders are associated with symptoms including facial pain, persistent headaches or earaches, and popping sounds during chewing. If you’ve experienced any of these signs of TMJ disorder, the best oral surgeons will examine your jaw both visually and with x-rays to determine if you do indeed have the condition.

Stress comes into play for TMJ disorders because it can lead patients to unconsciously clench their teeth or develop bruxism, which is grinding the teeth during sleep. These habits strain the muscles surrounding the jaw, leading to significant discomfort.

Patients who develop TMJ disorders don’t have to suffer through the pain, though. Effective treatments are available.

Although an oral surgeon can diagnose and treat TMJ disorders, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a surgical procedure will be involved. In fact, non-invasive interventions are typically used as initial attempts to treat TMJ problems.

Patients often see improvement in their symptoms when using over-the-counter painkillers, muscle massage and, yes, stress management training. If bruxism is involved, the patient may benefit from wearing a mouthguard or splint at night.

If those initial attempts do not provide any relief for the patient, then oral surgery may be needed to address a structural problem in the jaw that is causing ongoing symptoms.

TMJ disorders may be caused by congenital problems in the jaw, but even in those cases, stress can also be an exacerbating factor. Schedule a visit with the office of Drs. Steven D. Sherry and John D. Wallace, oral surgeons serving the DFW area, to learn more about your treatment options for TMJ disorder.