As much as we try to avoid it or lower it, stress remains a prevalent part of life for many adults. You may realize how stress impacts your heart, stomach or your skin, but did you know that chronic stress can also impact your jaw? Not only does stress trigger some harmful oral habits, but the jaw joint itself can become “stressed” as well. When the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) becomes inflamed, irritated or overworked, it can produce some very disruptive symptoms that can greatly affect your comfort and quality of life.
What Triggers TMJ Dysfunction?
The TMJ is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull. It allows you to chew, speak and yawn throughout the day. Unfortunately, there are many things that can cause the TMJ to malfunction or become irritated and overstrained. When this occurs, the nerves, muscles and soft tissues around the jaw joint can suffer, which can create a host of unwanted symptoms throughout the jaw, neck, head and ears.
TMJ dysfunction or TMD (temporomandibular disorder) can develop due to a variety of circumstances, including the following:
- Misaligned bite
- Uneven teeth or dental work
- Bruxism (teeth grinding/clenching)
- Excessive gum chewing
- Trauma or injury to the jaw
Signs that Your TMJ Needs a Break
When the TMJ is working harder than it should, such as when you grind your teeth during the night, it can trigger the following symptoms and warning signs:
- Jaw pain
- Jaw stiffness
- Jaw popping or clicking
- Neck pain
- Ear pain
- Tension headaches
How Your Dentist Can Help
Many of the circumstances that create TMJ problems can be remedied by your dentist. Depending on your unique case, we can correct an uneven or misaligned bite or make a custom mouth guard to protect your jaw and teeth from bruxism during the night. Since stress and anxiety can often be the culprit to bruxism, many patients are encouraged to find ways to relax their mind and body which will in turn relax their TMJ.
For more information on how we treat jaw discomfort at Riverwood Dental, please give us a call. Your TMJ is an important joint that needs your care and attention.