Can Stress Cause TMJ?

Can Stress Cause TMJ

The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed. Can stress cause TMJ? Can it be a trigger for developing this condition? The answer is yes, and there are many ways that stress can trigger this disorder. Stress may be one of the underlying causes because it has been shown to affect our hormones which in turn affects muscle tone as well as other bodily functions.

What is TMJ

TMJ is the joint that connects the lower jaw with your skull. It is situated at the back of your jaw and makes it possible for you to chew food.

In most cases, TMJ is brought about by grinding or clenching your teeth, when you bite down on something particularly hard. This causes excessive strain on the joint which can lead to inflammation within that area. Stress can also result in TMJ because it often triggers people into gritting their teeth or clenching their jaws, this action directly affects the TMJ joint. If left untreated this condition will make eating and sleeping very uncomfortable and may leave you feeling extremely tired all over.

Can Stress Cause TMJ?

Stress is known as the silent killer because it is literally killing hundreds of thousands of people each year. Although this may not seem like a problem, obviously there are many other health issues that may be more important to you but stress can indirectly cause problems in your body such as TMJ and most likely some others which you may not even know about. Stress can create havoc within the body if it is left unchecked for long periods of time and so it must always be taken seriously.

If you have had TMJ before or think that you might be at risk then perform some exercises which help to relax your jaw every day will keep your symptoms at bay and lower the chances of further occurrences happening again.

One way that stress can cause TMJ is by affecting our hormones. When we’re stressed, the hormone cortisol increases in response to the physical and mental strain of being under pressure. The body produces less saliva which may dry out throat tissues making them more sensitive and prone to irritation and inflammation.

Stress also causes a decrease in muscle tone so jaws are not as tightly clenched together but this makes it harder for muscles around your jawline to provide stability during chewing or speaking because they don’t have enough strength to do their job properly anymore.

If you suffer from chronic anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders then one study has found that up to 42% develop symptoms of TMJ within five years after suffering from those issues.

Other studies show us that it is quite possible to develop TMJ without any previous history of stress and that the condition can cause chronic pain, headaches, difficulty sleeping and even damage to teeth.

Stress is one thing but there are many other factors too that may contribute to TMJ such as grinding or clenching your jaw muscles together for long periods of time (even during sleep) because you’re stressed out; being born with a small lower jawbone so it doesn’t have enough room for all their teeth.

Symptoms of TMJ

There are various symptoms of TMJ which you need to be aware of because this will help you to know when and that could help the doctor to give you the best treatment. Some of these symptoms are more subtle than others but if you can recognise them then it can be a great way for your dentist to spot any problems before they get worse.

The first sign is often pain in the jaw joint which can become very painful once it becomes inflamed. This pain could spread to other areas of your face, neck or head depending on where the problem lies and so you must always get it checked by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Another symptom associated with TMJ is clicking tooth noise or locking which might be caused by misalignment of certain teeth.

You may find that you cannot open your mouth fully if you are suffering from TMJ. Nighttime can be especially bad for TMJ sufferers as this is when your jaw’s muscles are able to relax a lot more. This means that people suffering from TMJ may find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. It can also make you yawn excessively and feel generally tired during the day.

TMJ is often caused by tooth grinding or clenching which puts immense pressure on the jaw joints which in turn can create friction, heat and swelling in some cases. This can go unnoticed for long periods of time until pain sets in and then you might not even realise you have been grinding your teeth each night since many people do not even realize they are doing so.

Can Stress Cause TMJ

Treatment for TMJ

Treating TMJ is easy. If you suffer from TMJ then try and stop clenching or grinding your teeth. When you feel the urge to do so, focus on something else such as counting backwards from 300 in your head or trying to remember a certain tune.

The dentist can also prescribe mouth guards that prevent tooth grinding and actually work by taking the pressure off of jaw joints. Remember to always chew with your back teeth instead of using only the front teeth. This will help ease tension in your jaws too. Another way is getting regular exercises like aerobics and other aerobic exercises like running, they will increase blood circulation in your body and thus relax all muscles including those around neck and shoulders which cause headache.

Prevention of TMJ

TMJ can also be prevented by stopping teeth grinding and clenching. Dentures can be worn at night to prevent teeth from biting into the tongue or cheek while sleeping. Mouthguards can also be used during sleep as well. It is important to remember that TMJ is not very serious, but it should always be taken care of by a dentist instead of waiting until an emergency situation occurs.

Tips to reduce stress and avoid developing TMJ

TMJ can easily be managed by reducing the stress in one’s life through relaxation and meditation. Yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi are ways to keep our body healthy and relaxed. It is also important to eat the right kind of foods that can help weaken stress-producing hormones and strengthen neurotransmitters by eating protein (like fish, tofu, eggs) and carbohydrates (like vegetables). Medication may be taken if prescribed by the dentist but do consult a doctor first before taking any medications for TMJ.


Stress can cause TMJ because when we’re stressed, our muscles tense up and this tension then spreads to the jaw. -TMJ is a painful disorder that may be caused by stress or other factors such as teeth grinding during sleep, an injury, arthritis of the joints in your lower jawbone near your ear, or some combination thereof. Some people are genetically predisposed to develop TMJ due to their family history and there’s no way for us to know if you have it just from looking at them.

If you suspect that you might have TMJ symptoms like pain around your ears while chewing food on one side of your mouth with difficulty opening wide enough for certain foods (especially hard items), see a dentist right away!

References: Assessment of the relationship between stress and temporomandibular joint disorder in female students before university entrance exam


I am Adnan- Founder of Tiny Rumi. This blog is an effort to share my journey to live a more satisfying life and to help others find the wisdom to improve their experience.

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