TMJ Disorder: Will it get worse with stress?

The temporomandibular joint, frequently referred to as the TMJ, can be subject to various afflictions just as any other joint in the human body. For this particular joint, the term temporomandibular disorder is used to describe a wide variety of abnormal function, damage, or discomfort commonly reported by patients.

The staff at your Charlottesville dental office is specially trained to identify and treat TMJ/TMD disorders. An important part of TMJ/TMD treatment is to identify and correct any behaviors that may trigger or intensify TMJ/TMD symptoms.

The TMJ is the technical terminology for the jaw joint, the hinge that allows the mouth to open and close. This joint is responsible for enabling you to speak, chew, and bite. The joint is controlled by a group of muscles that allow the mouth to open, close, and move left to right. When the joint moves improperly, or when the muscles are overworked, pain and damage are the result.

For many patients, stress is a common trigger to TMJ pain. Whether it is due to emotional stress or physical stress, clenching and grinding of the teeth can cause the muscles of the joint to repeatedly contract. In response to emotional stress, patients may subconsciously clench or grit the teeth, especially during the sleeping hours. The indicators of this type of involuntary activity may be headache and neck pain in the morning, or chipped and fractured teeth.

It is easy to overlook physical stress as a trigger for TMJ disorder. During contact and non-contact sports, athletes may frequently clench the teeth in response to intense concentration. Most athletes are surprised to learn that this type of clenching can actually trigger the release of energy-draining hormones like cortisol, known to decrease your strength and endurance.

If you suspect that your TMJ disorder has worsened in response to increased stress, you should schedule a dental visit immediately. Modern dentistry affords you a broad array of TMJ treatment options ranging from protective mouthguards to surgical intervention, according to your specific needs. Call for an appointment, we look forward to seeing you.

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