Stress Side Effects and Your Jaw

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Have you recently noticed that your teeth are sore or sensitive to cold? Do your jaw muscles hurt in the morning? Does your face ache?

You’re not alone. As a result of the stress of our current circumstances, many of our patients are noticing symptoms that they haven’t had before. In particularly, a significant uptick in facial muscle pain and temporomandibular joint dysfunction. The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects your jaw to your skull. When this joint is injured or damaged, it can lead to a disorder called temporomandibular joint (also known as TMJ) syndrome. 

The most common symptoms of TMJ include:

  • Aching, tired feeling in your facial muscles
  • Swelling on the side(s) of your face
  • Pain or tenderness in your face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when you open or close your mouth — or when chewing
  • Trouble chewing or a sudden onset of an uncomfortable bite – as if the upper and lower teeth don’t fit together properly

What causes TMJ?

While the precise cause of temporomandibular joint disorder is often difficult to determine, a common one is stress on the joint due to clenching or grinding teeth. Known as bruxism, this condition occurs when you unconsciously clench your teeth or grind them during sleep.

While stress-induced TMJ is the most common, TMJ facial pain may also result from a variety of other factors, such as genetics, arthritis or jaw injury. 

In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with TMJ disorders is temporary and can be relieved with self-managed care or nonsurgical treatments.

You don’t have to live with TMJ pain

You may be able to help yourself by following some simple advice, as follows:  

  • Try a soft diet 
  • Avoid chewy foods like bagels or gum
  • Make a conscious effort to avoid clenching your teeth during the day. Lips together and teeth apart should become your mantra!
  • Apply a warm compress to the jaw muscles before bed to help relax the joints

Some of the worst strain on your jaw can occur while you sleep, causing these issues to be particularly noticeable in the morning. A custom-fitted dental night guard is a helpful appliance for treating TMJ disorder, because it takes the tension off of the joint without affecting your breathing while you sleep.

If you have tried the above advice and symptoms persist, you may need to see us for an evaluation. Please call the office at 978 664 3141 or complete the Contact form here: Contact Us

Photo attribution: Kate Mango Star,