Stress and Jaw Pain

Many patients find that they experience jaw pain when they are under stress. This is because there is an association between the jaw joint and stress. Patients often find that their jaw discomfort is directly correlated with increased levels of stress.

Stress is the body’s reaction to what is perceived to be a harmful situation. Ongoing stress, however, can manifest itself physically. When a patient clenches their teeth, it places additional stress on the muscles of the jaw and increased pressure on the jaw joint. Clenching the teeth can result in a sore jaw, muscle pain, tooth pain, and headaches. Patients often find that they can find relief from these symptoms through stress management. Below are some of the top methods for reducing stress:

  • Stress triggers: Identify when you experience stress and make note of anything that may trigger stress. Some patients find it helpful to keep a journal or a log of their stress to identify patterns.
  • Avoid stress: Plan ahead for situations which regularly cause stress. This may include setting realistic goals and prioritizing what is most important. It is helpful to learn how to say no and ask for help when needed.
  • Response to stress: When the stress trigger cannot be avoided, intentionally work to modify how you respond to it. Train yourself to slowly take a breath and separate your response from the trigger.
  • Acceptance: Avoid being consumed with anger and work to let things go which are out of your control. Many patients find it helpful to create a gratitude list.
  • Lifestyle choices: Maintain a regular sleep schedule and work to get eight hours of sleep each day. Find an enjoyable exercise which triggers your body to release endorphins. Exercise can be something as simple as walking at a comfortable pace for 30 minutes.
  • Relaxation: Stress which cannot be avoided should be balanced with activities that help you relax. Activities such as listening to music, meditation, working on a hobby, focused breathing, and yoga can help patients relax, stay positive, and reduce stress.

Bruxism or grinding of the teeth is one of the most common causes for jaw pain. Patients who frequently grind their teeth or clench their jaw muscles can begin to experience pain. Grinding of the teeth is especially common when patients are sleeping.

Many patients opt to use a night guard when they sleep to help reduce the impact of their grinding and protect their teeth. Night guards prevent the teeth from making contact during the grinding. The guard also gives the teeth a softer material to bite into. These guards can be custom fit and are also available over-the-counter. The guards are an affordable method to reduce jaw pain and protect a patient’s teeth.

In some cases of persistent jaw pain, the patient may need to work with a physical therapist to aid in relieving their discomfort. Physical therapists often use massage, ultrasound, manipulation, and dry needling techniques. Physical therapy treatment can aid in the following:

  • Reduce the severity and frequency of headaches
  • Minimize neck pain
  • Decrease the frequency of jaw locking
  • Improving the patient’s range of motion
  • Restore normal function and minimize any dietary restrictions

Jaw pain should be taken seriously as it can lead to serious, long-term issues when it remains untreated. Follow up with your dentist if you are experiencing persistent jaw pain to determine the cause and work together on a treatment plan.

Is Jaw Pain Tooth Related