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The TMJD-Mood Disorder Connection


You may have heard the term "mind-body connection" and wondered what it meant. The truth is, it has different meanings for different people. For some, it is the connection between spirituality (the mind) and health (the body). For others, it is the power that having a positive attitude can have over keeping the body strong and fighting illness. But when it comes to temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ disorder or simply TMJD, the mind-body connection can have a much different meaning, especially if you happen to have both a TMJD and a mood disorder.

That’s because, believe it or not, your TMJ disorder can heavily influence your mood disorder - and vice versa. Here’s how your brain can wreak havoc on your jaw, and how taking care of one problem - your TMJD or your mental health - can help you improve both.

What Is a Mood Disorder?

Before we discuss the link between your mood and your jaw, we first should define what is meant by a mood disorder. A mood disorder can be anything from anxiety to depression to even just everyday stress, depending on how well (or not) you handle it.

What Is TMJ Disorder?

Temporomandibular joint disorder is a condition of the jaw that causes jaw stiffness, tightness and pain. Because of the location of the TMJ, pain associated with this disorder can appear in some really surprising places beyond just the jaw. Common complaints of TMJD sufferers are headaches, toothaches and tooth sensitivity, tinnitus, earaches, neck pain, back pain, trouble chewing and talking, and even sleep disorders like sleep apnea. While there is no one cause of TMJD, patients can develop the disorder from everything from a bad bite to bruxism, or tooth grinding - and therein lies the key to the connection between TMJD and your mental health.

The TMJD-Mood Disorder Connection

Do you have a stressful job or life? Do you sit in excessive traffic? Do you suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, depression or any other mood disorder? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be at a higher risk of having a TMJ disorder, too. That’s because when we are anxious, stressed out, depressed or angry, our bodies tense up. This alone probably won’t cause a TMJD, but if you already have a TMJD, it certainly won’t help.

On the other hand, if you are experiencing any kind of mood disorder, the tension in your body may make it more likely for you to grind your teeth. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, may be done consciously or unconsciously. It can occur when you’re stressed or even while you sleep. In addition to causing chipped, pitted or cracked teeth, grinding your teeth can also cause or exacerbate a TMJ disorder. That’s because when you grind your teeth, you are clenching your jaw together and putting pressure on the temporomandibular joint. This can cause a domino effect of sorts, making the TMJ sore and stiff, and causing a TMJ disorder.

How Can I Fix It?

The good news is there are multiple solutions to a TMJD-mood disorder problem. The first thing you can do is to check with Dr. Simpson and see if you have a TMJD. If you do, there are many treatment options available, depending on the root cause of your TMJD. If it’s a bad bite, orthodontics may be helpful. If it's genetics, neuromuscular dentistry has been found to be very beneficial. If it's mood-related, you may want to wear a bite guard or speak to a mental health professional to help you find methods to better control the underlying problem. Meditation, counseling, breathing exercises and in some cases medication can all be useful tools in helping cope with a mood disorder.

The best part is, once you start dealing with one disorder - either mood or TMJ - you should experience a bit of relief from the other. After all, if you are in constant pain due to a TMJD, it may not do a whole lot to improve your mood.

If you think you may be suffering from a TMJ disorder, please contact Dr. Simpson’s office for a consultation. She can be reached at 910-550-3959.

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