How Stress May Be Making Your TMJ Worse

TMJ is a type of temporomandibular disorder that can cause pain in your jaw join and in the muscles that control jaw movement.

Is there a link between stress and TMJ? The short answer: probably.

Stress and TMJ have similar symptoms, which means they’re frequently misdiagnosed. For patients experiencing either it’s important to understand the symptoms that make each condition unique and the common link that exists between the two of them.

Stress affects many and can be quite harmful to your health. But, can stress make your TMJ worse?

Let’s talk about the difference between stress and TMJ and how stress can potentially make your TMJ symptoms even worse:


Our bodies are designed to handle small amounts of stress. But ongoing, runaway stress can be extremely harmful to our health. Grinding of the teeth, headaches, muscle tension and pain, and trouble sleeping are all common symptoms of stress. Grinding your teeth is a surefire way to increase your TMJ pain, so these symptoms of stress can often lead to a TMJ diagnosis.


When the joints in the jaw become misaligned, the muscles can spasm, which creates nerve pain. Symptoms can look completely different from one person to another, so pain treatment has to be customized to the individual. Headaches, aching pain in and around your ear, joint locking and popping, pain or tenderness in the cheek and jaw, and pain and difficulty chewing are common symptoms of TMJ.

What causes what? 

TMJ can both cause stress and be caused by stress, which makes the relationship between stress and TMJ extremely complicated. When you’re stressed out, your jaw muscles don’t relax, and tension in these muscles creates pain…which then heightens your stress…which can make your TMJ symptoms even more pronounced.

TMJ and stress can become a vicious cycle between themselves, but thankfully, there are certain ways to overcome it. Exercise, meditation, massage, and other calming activities are great ways to help you manage your stress and keep your TMJ symptoms at bay.

If you’re experiencing any jaw, head, neck or shoulder pain while under stress, it’s important to seek the advice and help of an experienced dental professional. Working to change your habits can help reduce your symptoms from either stress or TMJ, but the only way to find lasting relief is through treatment.

Try paying attention to the most minor of symptoms early. If you’re grinding your teeth at night, that’s one of the first moments you should phone your dentist. There are myriad of options available to prevent any further damage to your teeth and your jaw.

If you are concerned about TMJ or have a question about managing the effects of stress on your teeth, go ahead and give us a call. We’re ready to help you de-stress and break the cycle.

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