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Stress, TMJ, & Bruxism: A Vicious Cycle

  • October 19, 2016

Stress, TMJ, & Bruxism: A Vicious Cycle

Sometimes, stress is a good thing. Many people need deadlines to get stuff finished, and that stress can help. The same is true for stress from having to prepare dinner before the family gets home. It would be nice to be relaxed, but that kind of stress can keep you focused.

Then there’s the other kind of stress. This is when you feel tense and unhappy, often because of things that are beyond your control. Losing $50 just when you need to pay your phone bill is not positive no matter how you spin it.

The problem with this kind of stress is how it can hurt you. Everyone experiences stress reactions a bit differently, but there are some definite patterns. One of those patterns leads to two conditions that our Kansas City, MO dental office can treat: TMD and bruxism.

What Are TMD And Bruxism?

TMD stands for temporomandibular disorder. Your temporomandibular joints (or TMJ) are also known as your jaw joints. Whenever you open or close your mouth, you use them. In other words, you need your TMJ to chew, drink, talk, yawn, laugh, and more. When these jaw joints get overworked, they can become sore and problematic. Your TMJ doesn’t work the way it needs to.

Bruxism is a related condition. Here, you grind your teeth unconsciously. This mostly happens at night, but it could happen during the day when you’re busy and preoccupied. While your teeth are durable, they’re not supposed to suffer from all of that extra grinding. People with bruxism often have damaged teeth.

Signs Of TMD

How do you know if you suffer from TMD? Watch out for these signs.

– Your jaw is hard to move sometimes. People with TMD can have trouble opening or closing their jaw. In extreme cases, you’ll have lockjaw and cannot move it at all from time to time.

– Your have pain in your jaw, neck, shoulders, or upper back. Your muscles are all interconnected. When the muscles in your jaw get sore, the pain and tension can spread to your upper body.

– You sometimes have ear pain or ringing in the ears. The same tension and pain from your TMJ can spread to your ears. People with TMD can have earaches or tinnitus.

– You have frequent headaches and even migraines. You’ve probably had tension headaches before. With TMD, those headaches can be frequent and even turn into migraines.

– Your jaw makes noises when you chew. Because the jaw joints are not working right, you might hear a clicking or popping noise when you open or close your jaw.

Signs Of Bruxism

– You catch yourself grinding your teeth without realizing it. Bruxism happens unconsciously, but you can suddenly realize you’ve been clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth during the day.

– Your jaw is sore in the morning. Teeth grinding is especially bad at night. If you wake up with a sore jaw and do not know why, it could be because you’re grinding your teeth while you sleep.

– Your teeth are starting to get sensitive to temperature. Grinding can create worn spots in the enamel. Hot and cold food are normally no problem to teeth, but if they have worn spots, the temperature can reach the nerve endings within.

The Stress Cycle Between TMD And Bruxism

While there is no test to determine exactly why you have TMD or bruxism, stress is definitely related. This can create a vicious cycle that only makes things worse. Here’s what can happen:

– TMD and bruxism cause you pain. Between that and worrying about your teeth and health, you start to get stressed.

– The stress causes your muscles to tense up. This includes the muscles in your jaw joints, head, neck, and more. That tension makes your TMD and bruxism happen more often, or at least make both worse. It can also make those muscles more susceptible to pain since they’re dealing with stress and tension.

– That causes more pain and stress, which leads to more tension, and so on.

How To Break That TMD Cycle

To get out of that cycle, you need to give yourself and your jaw joints some time to relax. First, do what you can to find a way to relax. Reducing your stress levels can have a huge impact on your health. For your jaw joints, you can get a customized dental splint. This small device is worn over your teeth at night. It looks and feels a lot like a mouthguard. It protects your teeth, which helps prevent bruxism. But it also shifts your jaw slightly, taking some pressure off your TMJ and giving it more time to heal.

If your TMD or bruxism is giving you migraines, you can get relief through Botox injections. This revolutionary new treatment is safe, FDA-approved, and can provide pain relief when other treatments cannot.

Call us today at 816-399-5539 if you are worried about TMD or bruxism.

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