TMJ can be triggered or made worse by stress. Stress can cause you to clench your teeth or tense other muscles that can contribute to a misaligned or poorly functioning jaw joint or push already-stressed muscles over the tipping point where you begin to experience jaw pain or tension headaches.

Identifying your stress triggers may help to control your TMJ.

Acute or Chronic Stress

Acute stress is stress that you feel in direct response to a single, stressful event. If, for example, you faced off with a mugger or had a fight with a loved one, you would feel adrenaline enter your system and create what is commonly called the fight-or-flight response. Acute stress tends to be transitory and is not a major concern, although it can lead to flare-ups of TMJ symptoms.

Chronic stress is more damaging. It keeps your body in a state of perpetual alert, which results in deficiencies of your immune system, headaches, and insomnia.

Identifying Stress Triggers

The first step in getting chronic stress under control is identifying what is triggering your stress. There are two major categories of stress triggers that can be broken down into smaller categories .

External stressors: These stress triggers include major life changes (especially unpredictable events), environmental stressors, workplace stress, financial stress, and relationship stress. These also include physical stressors such as working long hours or eating a poor diet and chemical stressors such as alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs.

Many of these events may start as acute stresses, but as they recur or continue, they become chronic stress triggers. It’s important to identify these stressors and try to eliminate them to the extent possible. 

Internal stressors: These stress triggers can sometimes be harder to pin down. Instead of coming from outside events, they are created by you. Common internal stressors include: a drive for perfection, fears for the future, common phobias, and feelings that you lack control.

Dealing with Stressors

It’s important to note that chronic stress is cumulative, and removing any stressor can help reduce your overall stress load. Focus first on making changes that you can control, such as your diet, your environment, and how you respond to stressful situations. Being more assertive in conflicts can actually reduce your stress, as can humor and other techniques to defuse stressful situations. Being more active will also help reduce your stress.

If TMJ Isn’t Reduced with Stress

Although in its early stages, TMJ may flare up with stress, it eventually reaches a chronic state in which stress doesn’t impact the extent of your systems. At this point, you need to seek TMJ treatment for relief of your TMJ and to prevent further damage to your body.

For help with TMJ in Spokane, please contact Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics by calling (509) 927-2273 today.