The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has left all of us feeling more stressed than usual. And if you’re like most people, there are other anxiety-producing issues you’re facing as well – such as loss of income and/or home-schooling your kids, for example. If you’re feeling as though you’re under more stress than usual, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s safe to say that virtually everyone is feeling elevated levels of anxiety right now. There are several ways to combat the negative effects of the stress we’re all feeling, such as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, getting enough rest, and finding ways to relax each day with meditation, yoga or some similar activity. But there’s another consequence of stress that you may be experiencing without even realizing it: TMJ disorder.
What is TMJ Disorder?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jawbone to your skull, and you have one TMJ located on each side of your jaw. When this joint is irritated, it can result in symptoms such as jaw pain, clenching your teeth while you’re awake, grinding your teeth while you sleep, headaches, interrupted sleep, and worn-down teeth, to name a few. This condition is called TMJ disorder, and while it could be caused by a variety of factors – such as arthritis, injury, or genetics, for example – one of the primary reasons that people develop TMJ disorder is stress.
Treating TMJ Disorder
Fortunately, there are some effective ways to alleviate the pain and discomfort that come as a result of TMJ disorder, including the following:
- Relaxation techniques – Reducing stress is essential in overcoming TMJ disorder. Relaxation techniques can range from meditation and deep breathing to physically relaxing your jaw throughout the course of each day. Often, people who are under stress clench their jaws without even realizing it, so the simple act of remembering not to do this will help relieve the tension on your jaw.
- Stretching and massage – There are some gentle massage techniques and stretches that you can perform at home, all of which can help to reduce the tension in your jaw. These methods are often quite effective, but you should ask your dentist or doctor to make sure that the stretching and massage techniques you’re using are actually helping rather than making matters worse.
- Mouthguards – The long-term effects of TMJ disorder can have very negative consequences on your oral health. Regularly grinding your teeth at night can wear down your teeth and, in some extreme cases, can even lead to your teeth becoming loose. Many dentists provide mouthguards to their patients to protect their teeth from the damaging effects of grinding.
For more information about TMJ disorder and how to treat this condition, call a qualified dentist who treats TMJ and schedule an appointment.