Can Stress Trigger TMJ Disorder?

Jaw Pain

Most of us live with some level of stress each day. Who hasn’t experienced a little stress? It should be a four-letter word! We agonize about any number of things, including our job, family, kids, health, and finances.

Some of us manage stress better than others. Maybe stress has been heaped on you personally in large quantities. And now there is a new stressor impacting everyone – a global health pandemic. Jobs are lost. Businesses shuttered. Parents and kids are adjusting to learning at home. Our lives are in turmoil with uncertainty over the health and welfare of those we love.

Stress is often the cause and culprit for many pains and ailments. It’s the ultimate equalizer. We habitually point the finger and blame “stress” for any number of physical pains and muscle tension.

Stress and Sleep

Our stress doesn’t go away when we sleep. Stress follows us in our dreams. Our body often reacts to the stress in tension-filled pain. We process the stressors of the day while we sleep – an argument with a partner, trying to complete a project at work, or managing day-to-day life responsibilities, including our kids. Stress in our lives is always there. And for some of us, our body responds to the stress physically, often in a harsh way.

Do you wake up with pain, soreness, tenderness in your jaw? Or cringe over a perpetual headache each morning? While you’re unconscious and sleeping, you’re physically responding to the stress that you can’t often control.

Stress can cause teeth grinding and jaw clenching, both while you sleep, and awake throughout the day. This unconscious action can significantly degrade your teeth and cause pain in your jaw and face. Some grind their teeth or clench their jaw thousands of times each night while sleeping. In fact, our jaw can clench upwards of 250 pounds of pressure!

When we clench our jaws, we do so in the back part of our jaw and molars. The human jaw is very powerful. The pressure you can create with the back of your jaw, compared with your front teeth, is significantly greater.

To demonstrate, take a pencil, and bite down on the pencil with the front of your teeth. Next, bite down on the pencil with your back molars. Feel a difference in the strength you have from the front to the back of your jaw? That’s some serious force we create clenching our jaw!

Stress can Lead to TMJ Disorder

Symptoms of jaw clenching and teeth grinding can include difficulty or pain opening and closing your mouth, frequent headaches, pain or ringing in your ear, and neck and shoulder stiffness or pain.

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching is also referred to as a condition called bruxism. While some individuals may have a mild case of bruxism, for others, it can lead to TMJ Disorder. TMJ causes pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. TMJ involves the functionality with the hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. The movement of our jaw, and how well it operates, impacts us most often when we talk and eat. The degree of mobility and severity of the jaw pain, can significantly impact our quality of life on a daily basis.

TMJ Disorder Treatment

Many of our patients come to us with constant jaw pain, headaches, and other symptoms. The pain and discomfort may be so great that it affects how they live, work, eat, and talk.  At Bay Area TMJ and Sleep Center, we help our patients by determining the proper alignment of their jaw and natural bite pattern. Our goal is to prevent muscular disparities to help reduce inflammation and pain.

Our custom oral appliance therapy properly aligns the jaw and reduce your ability to clench your jaw with the same force previously. Additional our custom oral appliances will help to protect your teeth from wearing down further from grinding your teeth while sleeping.

Many patients come to us after having tried a night guard they purchased from a pharmacy or their family dentist. Our oral appliances are not the same will provide superior results. A custom oral appliance is made to meet your unique jaw, alignment, and treatment needed to reduce and prevent jaw pain and discomfort.

Managing Through Stress, Pain-Free

While the stress in our lives may not go away, proper professional treatment can stop the pain. Dr. Busciglio and Bay Area TMJ and Sleep Center is focused exclusively to the diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of TMJ Disorder and sleep apnea.

If you or a loved one is experiencing jaw pain, stress may be the trigger. We probably can’t reduce your stress. However, with our customized approach to TMJ Disorder, we can get you feeling better and living pain-free. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.


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