The Temporomandibular joint or TMJ connects the lower jaw to the skull in front of the ear. Temporomandibular joint disorders or TMD occur when there is a malfunction with these muscles and can have a large number of symptoms as well as causes. Stress particularly does potentially play a role in causing TMD, affecting busy executives and those within high-pressure work positions.

What is the TMJ?

Controlled by an intricate network of muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues, the jaw joint is one of the most complexes in the human body. Because of its complexity, the joints can become misaligned causing the muscles to spasms and nerve pain to manifest.

What are the symptoms of TMD?

Surprisingly, it is most commonly women who suffer from TMD more than men do. Problems with the TMJ can cause head and neck pain, facial pain, ear pain, headache and a jaw that is locked or difficult to open. Other symptoms include:

  • Issues with biting and jaw clicking or popping sounds when you bite
  • Arthritis, tiredness in the face
  • Gnashing of teeth
  • Injury, dislocation of cushioning material

Other common stress symptoms include:

  • Bruxism or teeth grinding
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Difficulty sleeping

Stress and TMD are often linked to one another with the symptoms of stress manifesting themselves in physical ways which can often lead to a TMD diagnosis since the symptoms are so similar. The relationship between stress, anxiety and TMD is complicated but definitely large enough to be noteworthy. This also means that reducing the causes of stress and anxiety can also potentially reduce the risk of and possibly symptoms of TMD.

Workplace and life stress and how it can cause TMD

Stress affects many people and is the way in which our bodies react to harmful situations. Naturally, we are only designed to handle small amounts of stress, meaning that ongoing or prolonged exposure can be harmful to our health. Those people in high-stress executive positions are often under tremendous amounts of stress and thus more likely to experience the adverse effects of prolonged stress which can include TMD.

Risk factors and causes

Recognising symptoms of TMD is far easier than establishing the cause. There are a number of factors that could cause TMJ pain and issues:

  • Arthritis damage in the joint cartilage
  • Disc erosion in the jaw
  • A jaw injury such as whiplash or a heavy blow
  • Chronic grinding or teeth clenching
  • Stress or anxiety that causes you to tighten facial and jaw muscles
  • Poor posture
  • Braces
  • Excessive gum chewing
  • Connective tissue diseases that affect your TMJ

Treatment options for TMD

There are a number of treatments for TMD, the first beginning at home.

  • These involve taking a little more care with the foods that you eat, non-chewy and softer foods that require small bites.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication to relieve the pain. Practising good posture.
  • Avoiding unnecessary jaw movement such as chewing gum, opening your mouth wide or resting your jaw on your hand.
  • Use moist heat or cold packs on each side of your face for 10 minutes. Several times a day
  • If you are a grinder or clencher then try to place your tongue between your teeth and position your jaw with your teeth slightly apart as often as possible
  • And learning stress management techniques to help you loosen your jaw
  • Massage your jaw and neck muscles and visit a physiotherapist if necessary.

TMD and sleep apnoea

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder is the leading cause of sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea refers to obstructive sleep often caused by throat muscles relaxing and restricting the airways. As a result, a sufferer is forced awake by the brain to start breathing again. This causes repeatedly interrupted sleep.

If you’re suffering from sleep apnoea, a visit to Ironside Advanced Dental can help. Studies have revealed correction of the malocclusion can relieve sleep apnoea.

Diagnosing TMD

At Ironside Advanced Dental we can accurately diagnose TMD.

As a prosthodontist, Dr Ironside has a thorough understanding of TMD and can, therefore, provide our patients with a correct diagnosis for more effective treatment and alleviation of painful symptoms. If you suffer from any of the aforementioned symptoms either singularly or in combination, you may be suffering silently from TMD. At Ironside Advanced Dental we have your solution.

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