Many people assume that teeth grinding, or bruxism, is strictly a physical problem. They may think their jaw is out of alignment or that it’s something that happens to everyone.
Chronic grinding is, in fact, a physical problem; it can lead to temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and serious damage to teeth. But the physical side isn’t the whole story. Often, a person who grinds, either during the day or at night, has some stress or psychological difficulties that are contributing to the problem.
The Stigma of Anger
Anger can be a difficult emotion to manage, even as adults. And when we hear the term “anger management,” we often have a negative association of someone who is “out of control” or somehow a bad person.
The reality, however, is that many successful, good people have anger issues ranging from mild to severe that could be helped with the right treatment — in turn saving their jaw and teeth in the process.
At MedCenter TMJ, we talk with our patients about their emotions, including anger, to help determine if part of their TMD could be related to psychological aspects. Sometimes these issues can be managed with some relaxation measures or lifestyle changes like exercise and a healthy diet, and other times it requires additional help from a mental health professional. Either way, anger management is a big step forward to helping the patient not only treat orofacial pain, but to feel better emotionally every day.
Stress and the Body
Stress takes a major physical and mental toll. Our bodies fight back against stress with a release of certain hormones. This can lead to long-term health problems such as a higher risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, and many other conditions. It also has a lot to do with teeth grinding and jaw problems.
Even if you don’t have anger issues, you could still be dealing with a high level of stress that is slowly deteriorating your health. Whether from work, personal life, or just the demands of daily living, stress can happen to even the most organized and level-headed people.
The good news is, there are a number of ways you can reduce stress in your life or simply learn to manage it in healthy ways. We talk to patients about effective ways to reduce stress, from natural remedies, to simple lifestyle changes, to medical interventions when needed. If you have TMD or jaw pain, you owe it to yourself to examine your own stress level and look for ways to manage it. You may find those tension headaches, earaches, and sleep problems were all a result of TMD, which improved when you were able to reduce stress and improve your mental well being.
Are you wondering if your emotions could be harming your jaw and standing in the way of a healthier life? Contact MedCenter TMJ to find out how to take a total body approach to jaw pain!