Studies have found a possible link between TMJ and anxiety. At present, findings have suggested that TMJ can be caused by anxiety, and anxiety can be caused by TMJ. A large number of variables have made it difficult to determine the exact relationship between the two, but the link seems to be there. People suffering from anxiety may be at a higher risk for TMJ. Likewise, people suffering from TMJ may be at higher risk of developing anxiety.
Anxiety Can Lead to TMJ
When people experience anxiety, they are more likely to clench their jaws or grind their teeth. Extended periods of clenching or grinding often leads to TMJ. Studies have found that individuals with higher levels of anxiety or stress also experienced pain caused by TMJ. These studies suggest that anxiety may lead to TMJ in some individuals, but the two do not have an absolute cause-and-effect relationship.
TMJ May Cause or Exacerbate Anxiety
In 2013, a study was conducted to test whether TMJ would cause anxiety in rats. The test population was given an injection that caused inflammation in the temporomandubular joint. After a period of time with TMJ symptoms, the test population began to display anxiety-like behaviors. The pain caused by inflammation may have been the factor that caused the rats’ anxiety.
Frequent pain may cause or exacerbate anxiety in some people. TMJ causes a number of other symptoms as well, including dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, and jaw pain. These symptoms often create conditions that have been known to lead to anxiety. For example, tinnitus has been known to disrupt sleep, and sleep disruptions have been connected to anxiety.
People who do not realize that their TMJ is causing symptoms like dizziness and headaches may feel anxious about these unexplained conditions. That anxiousness can build with each occurrence of unknown pain until it weighs heavily on the mind and becomes an anxiety. The same snowball effect can happen to people who know the cause of their symptoms and become anxious whenever they spring up.
In some cases, TMJ does not lead to anxiety, but exacerbates pre-existing anxiety. People already experiencing anxiety will have heightened sensitivity to things that cause anxiousness.
Finding the Connection to Know Your Risk
Researchers are working to narrow down variables in order to find the connection. It is unclear whether people who experience anxiety from TMJ symptoms are predisposed to anxiety, or if the symptoms themselves are causing this heightened anxiety. Future studies will be needed before scientists are able to discover the link.
Knowing that a possible connection exists may help sufferers of TMJ who experience anxiety. With such a large number of possible causes for anxiety, it is also important to speak with your doctor about your anxiety to better understand why you feel anxious. If you experience anxiety caused or exacerbated by TMJ symptoms, seeking TMJ treatment may lessen your anxiety.
To learn more about how treating your TMJ may help to reduce anxiety, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a Denver TMJ dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.