Could TMJ be causing your anxiety attacks?
Published on Nov 13, 2016
Dr. Pankaj P. Singh

Anxiety and depression affects 40 million adult Americans which can cause day-to-day living to be difficult and painful. Studies are showing a definitive link between anxiety and TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) disorder which, with treatment, may alleviate suffering in those diagnosed with Dizziness, headaches and pain caused by TMJ can

What is TMJ?

TMJ disorder (also called TMD) occurs is when the joint that attaches the lower jaw to the head is misaligned. This joint allows us to open our mouths to speak, chew, swallow, and yawn. When it is not functioning properly it can cause or lead to several serious health and lifestyle problems such as sleep apnea, teeth grinding, anxiety, and tension headaches or migraines. TMJ affects nearly 10 million Americans with women being more prone to the condition than men

Symptoms of TMJ include: headache, aching pain or ringing of the ears, joint locking or popping, pain or difficulty in chewing, dizziness, and pain in the jaw due to excessive clenching.  Rarer symptoms of TMJ, due to stress on the nerves, can cause numbness in the mouth and face as well as in the arms and legs, tingling in the fingers, involuntary muscle movements, and impaired thinking.

How are TMJ and Anxiety linked?

In a recent study concluded that stress and TMJ have a high degree of correlation. There are other studies which conclude that those with TMJ have a higher chance for anxiety disorder as proved by a 2014 study where injection of inflammatory agents in their TM joint resulted in anxiety-like behaviors. What is present is the all too familiar “the chicken or the egg” quandary; does anxiety exacerbate TMJ or does TMJ exacerbate anxiety? Science has yet to find the answer.

What makes matters worse for those with anxiety is also the related sleep disorders that accompany TMJ like sleep apnea and teeth grinding. Both cause the sufferer to lose sleep, creating a neurochemical response which then in turn contributes to an increase in their anxiety. Sleep deprivation and constant facial pain can also make any situation more stressful, causing anxiety to build.

How can you reduce TMJ-related anxiety?

First and foremost, if you believe you have TMJ, see a dental specialist to diagnose the disorder and its severity. Some lesser forms of TMJ do not require extensive treatment outside of rest and jaw stretching exercises.

Depending on the symptoms and severity Those diagnosed with TMJ may be fit from something simple as a mouth guard to wear while sleeping to prevent teeth from grinding, relieving stress on the joint. More severe cases may require orthodontic treatment to realign their bite or possibly even surgery when conservative treatments may not be indicated or ineffective.  Some patients are initially prescribed anxiety medications to reduce stressful situations. Natural stress managements techniques like massage, yoga, cognitive therapy, a soft-foods diet, and bio-feedback are also helpful in managing the condition. By managing each condition well, anxiety and anxiety attacks can be greatly decreased improving quality of life.


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