Along with rising incidents of anxiety and depression in the United States, dentists have also reported an increase in the number of cases of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). This begs the question for medical professionals whether there is a link between this condition and anxiety/depression disorders. The answer might surprise you!

What is TMJ?

TMJ disorders are characterized by chronic pain in the jaw joint and the muscles that perform the movement of the mandible. The exact cause can be tough to determine even when it is diagnosed as there can be a combination of factors. There may have been an acute injury to the jaw or bruxism (teeth grinding) that may be contributing to it. In some cases, the disorder is temporary and the pain associated with it may come and go, but in other cases, the pain and discomfort experienced by the patient can last for years if left untreated. Treatments may include certain dental procedures, use of a night guard while sleeping, or surgery to correct it.

Depression and Anxiety

While nearly everyone experiences depression and anxiety sometime in their lives, it is only a disorder when it exceeds a certain threshold that leads to impairment of the individual. Symptoms that may indicate a depression disorder include loss of appetite, constant fatigue, excessive guilt, cognitive difficulties, and impaired decision making. This may have many similar symptoms with anxiety disorders which may also be characterized by excessive worry, restlessness, irritability, social isolation, and distrust of others. These may also be experienced at the same time and interchangeably. Researchers have recently discovered that these symptoms are commonly found in those who are suffering from TMJ.

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Links between Anxiety, Depression, and TMJ

The research performed to study the link between TMJ and depression/anxiety has found that there is a correlation between those suffering from TMJ and those who experience anxiety or depressive disorders. In a study of more than 4000 TMJ pain assessments, the psychiatric questionnaire found that complaints of anxiety and depression were experienced by these patients at a higher rate than expected in the general population. There are two possible theories to explain why this link exists: the first being that the TMJ may be a symptom of the underlying mental health disorder and the other being that a chemical imbalance could contribute to both conditions concurrently.

Does Depression and Anxiety cause TMJ?

Unfortunately, there has not been sufficient research into the relationship between these disorders to determine with any kind of consensus whether or not anxiety/depression has a causal relationship to TMJ. If this is the case, treating these mental health disorders as a primary disorder may help to treat TMJ as a secondary disorder. However, it is clear that due to the prevalence of patients needing concurrent treatment for both, a comprehensive treatment plan must take the other into account when planning on a course of therapy.

Take The First Step Today

Are you suffering from anxiety or depression and believe that this may be contributing to TMJ symptoms? We want to help. Contact us today for more information and take your first step toward recovery.