How do I know if my symptoms are caused by stress or TMJ?

 

photodune-4558679-stressful-xs-300x196Certain symptoms may indicate a physiological problem or an emotional one. For example, issues like muscle strain in the jaw and vague facial pain may indicate a disorder of the jaw known as TMJ (for temporomandibular joint), or they may be due to stress.

Generally speaking, if you’re experiencing any symptoms that could potentially be due to a physiological concern, you should be evaluated by some sort of medical professional. In the case of possible TMJ disorder, patients should consult with an oral surgeon, who is a dental specialist focusing on conditions involving the facial structures.

An oral surgeon completes a residency following dental school that emphasizes knowledge and familiarity with all of the structures that comprise the jaw, which makes these specialists particularly well-suited to diagnose jaw problems, such as TMJ disorder. The surgeon can examine your jaw, including reviewing imaging, to pinpoint any structural issues that may be contributing to your symptoms.

The jaw is a highly complex joint, consisting of bone and other related structures, including muscles, tendons and cartilage among other things. A problem that develops with any one of those components can cause discomfort and malfunctioning of the jaw, like clicking, popping or locking of the jaw while chewing.

Whichever specific element is identified as the cause of your TMJ disorder will dictate the recommended treatment. For example, if the issue seems to be primarily muscular, a course of physical therapy may be prescribed. On the other hand, if a structural defect of the jaw is at fault, surgery may be necessary.

Even if you do have a TMJ disorder, stress can still exacerbate this condition. Counseling or other stress management techniques may be recommended in order to address your symptoms.

It’s impossible for you to know on your own whether symptoms like jaw pain are due to a TMJ disorder or stress. You should schedule an evaluation at our office to find out what is causing your symptoms and learn about recommended treatments.