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The Link Between Stress and TMJ: Managing Jaw Pain in Stressful Times

With the increasing pressures of modern life, stress has become an integral part of our day-to-day existence. But have you ever noticed a dull ache in your jaw or a slight headache when you're particularly stressed out? You're not alone. Stress is known to exacerbate a range of health problems, including Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ). Today, we'll explore the connection between stress and TMJ, understand how stress impacts the temporomandibular joint, and learn practical tips and coping strategies to manage stress effectively and reduce TMJ-related discomfort.

Unveiling the Connection: Stress and TMJ

The temporomandibular joint, where the jawbone meets the skull, is one of the most complex joints in the human body. TMJ disorders can lead to jaw pain, headaches, difficulty in chewing, and a host of other uncomfortable symptoms. Interestingly, stress plays a significant role in triggering or worsening these symptoms.

So, how exactly does stress impact TMJ? When we're under stress, it's common for our bodies to enter a "fight-or-flight" mode, leading to muscle tension, including the muscles surrounding the temporomandibular joint. This added tension can exacerbate TMJ disorders, leading to more severe symptoms.

Moreover, many people subconsciously grind their teeth or clench their jaw when stressed, a condition known as bruxism. This places immense pressure on the temporomandibular joint, leading to jaw pain and other TMJ symptoms.

Recognizing Stress-Induced TMJ Symptoms

Stress-induced TMJ symptoms can range from mild discomfort to intense pain. Recognizing these signs is crucial for timely intervention and stress management. They may include:

  • Jaw pain or soreness, particularly in the morning or late afternoon
  • Jaw pain while chewing, biting, or yawning
  • Chronic headaches or neck aches
  • Clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth
  • Swelling on the side of the face

Coping with Stress: Reducing TMJ Discomfort

Recognizing the connection between stress and TMJ is the first step towards effective management. Here are some practical ways to manage stress and mitigate its effects on your temporomandibular joint:

1. Practice Relaxation Techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can help reduce overall muscle tension, including the jaw.

2. Incorporate Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can serve as a natural stress reliever, helping to relax your muscles and improve your mood.

3. Establish a Sleep Routine: Quality sleep is key to managing stress and promoting muscle relaxation. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, establish a regular sleep schedule, and create a restful environment.

4. Try Biofeedback or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Biofeedback can help you learn to control muscle tension, while cognitive-behavioral therapy can provide strategies for managing stress.

5. Maintain a Balanced Diet: Eating a balanced diet can not only boost your overall health but also help manage stress levels.

6. Seek Professional Help: If stress and TMJ symptoms persist, it may be helpful to speak with a healthcare professional. They may recommend treatments such as physical therapy, medication, or in some cases, dental appliances to reduce teeth grinding.


Stress is an inevitable part of life, but when it begins to impact our health, it's essential to take proactive steps. By recognizing the link between stress and TMJ disorders, adopting effective stress management techniques, and seeking professional help when necessary, it's possible to navigate stressful times without exacerbating TMJ-related discomfort.

Remember, managing stress and its effects on TMJ is a journey. It may take time to find the strategies that work best for you. Be patient with yourself and remember that small steps can lead to significant improvements in managing your TMJ symptoms and enhancing your overall well-being.


Maria Cardenas DMD:
TMJ Treatment in Greater Boston

 Here at Maria Cardenas DMD, we always want to be as transparent as possible with our patients and make sure you have all the information before starting any type of treatment.

 Our goal is to provide our patients with the best oral health care and education while building lasting relationships. We believe in getting to know the person behind the smile. You’ll be sure to enjoy a first-class experience whether it’s your first or fiftieth visit at our boutique dental practice.

In addition to offering TMJ treatment in Wellesley, Maria Cardenas DMD is proud to offer a wide variety of cosmetic, restorative, and general dental services. From teeth whitening to veneers to Invisalign and more, we are here to help with all your dental needs!

 For more information about TMJ treatment in Greater Boston or to get scheduled at our Wellesley dental clinic, please feel free to call or text us at 781-235-1900. After hours, you can also fill out our contact form and we will reach out to you as soon as we are back in the office.