Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMDs) can have a significant impact on both mental health and the quality of life of patients. These disorders affect the joints that connect the jawbone to the skull, causing discomfort and pain in the face, jaw, and neck. While the physical symptoms of TMJ disorders are well-known, the impact that these disorders can have on mental health and daily functioning is often overlooked. Research has shown that TMDs can lead to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, which can exacerbate physical symptoms and reduce the overall quality of life. Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between TMDs, mental health, and quality of life.
The Relationship Between TMDs and Mental Health
TMJ disorders can lead to mental health concerns such as the pain and discomfort associated with it can be chronic and severe, which can cause emotional distress, limit daily activities, and even lead to mental health issues like depression. The unpredictability of TMD symptoms can also cause anxiety and social isolation, leading patients to feel like they’ve lost control over their lives and the things they enjoy.
Anxiety is a common TMD mental health issue. The pain and discomfort caused by TMDs can make it difficult to complete daily tasks, leading to feelings of frustration as well as anticipation over future tasks. Moreover, the unpredictability of TMD symptoms can create anxiety, as people never know when their symptoms may flare up. This can cause them to avoid social situations or activities they enjoy, which can negatively impact their mental health.
Depression is another mental health concern that can arise due to TMDs. Living with chronic TMJ pain and discomfort can lead to a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, while the limitations on daily activities can lead to a loss of enjoyment and a sense of isolation—all of which are contributing factors to depression.
The Impact of TMDs on Quality of Life
TMDs are commonly known as temporomandibular joint disorders. TMDs can cause a range of symptoms, including pain, stiffness, clicking or popping sounds in the jaw, and difficulty opening or closing the mouth. The impact of TMDs on quality of life can be significant, affecting everything from eating and speaking to sleep and mental health.
One of the most common symptoms of TMDs is pain, which can be felt in the jaw joint, face, neck, and shoulders. This pain can range from mild discomfort to severe and debilitating and can make it difficult to eat, speak, and even sleep. In some cases, TMD pain can also lead to headaches, earaches, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
TMDs and Daily Activities
Daily activities that involve the jaw can be particularly challenging for individuals who live with TMD as eating, speaking, and even smiling can cause discomfort and pain. The following are some typical daily activities that can be affected by TMJ disorders.
Eating: Chewing food requires the use of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), so individuals with TMJ disorders may find eating a painful experience. Foods that require more chewing, such as tough meats or crunchy vegetables, may be especially difficult to eat. As a result, individuals with TMDs may need to modify their diet to include softer foods or use utensils to cut food into smaller pieces.
Speaking: Speaking requires the use of the jaw muscles, and individuals with TMDs may experience discomfort or pain when talking for an extended period. This can be particularly challenging for individuals whose jobs require them to speak for extended periods, such as teachers or salespeople. It may be helpful to take breaks during the day to rest the jaw muscles and reduce pain.
Teeth brushing: Brushing teeth requires opening and closing the mouth, which can be painful for those who suffer from TMDs. Patients may need to modify their brushing technique or use a smaller toothbrush to reduce discomfort.
Yawning: Yawning can cause discomfort or pain for individuals with TMDs, which can be especially challenging if they frequently feel tired or fatigued. It may be helpful to use a warm compress on the jaw muscles before yawning to reduce pain.
Night Headaches and TMD
Nighttime headaches are common symptoms of TMJ disorders. The misalignment of the bite can cause strain in the muscles, which may feel like a severe headache. Typically, you may feel pain in your forehead, the back of your head, or your neck. Sleep apnea can also cause these types of headaches by reducing oxygen flow to the head. Instead of relying on over-the-counter pain medication, it is recommended to have a professional diagnosis of headache disorders to understand the root cause. If you experience jaw clicking, an uneven bite, snoring during sleep, or a forward head posture, it is likely that TMD is the root cause of your headaches, and possibly sleep apnea as well.
Sleep and TMD
Sleep disorders occur when a person’s airway becomes blocked while sleeping, which can lead to a temporary halt in breathing. As a result, the brain signals the heart to beat rapidly, and the individual wakes up gasping or choking for air. This cycle can repeat multiple times during the night, interrupting the sleep cycle each time. Although people usually don’t fully awaken during an apnea episode, they do wake up just enough to disturb their sleep, which can lead to a range of medical conditions and complications.
Recent studies have suggested that TMJ disorders can be one of the causes of sleep apnea. TMD can cause the tongue to block the airway during sleep due to an incorrect tongue position resulting from a misaligned jaw joint. In such cases, treating TMD can also be an effective sleep apnea treatment.
A variety of symptoms, such as discomfort, stiffness, popping or clicking noises, and difficulty opening or shutting the mouth, can be brought on by TMDs—symptoms that might result in mental health issues including depression and anxiety, and even dangerous physical complications like sleep apnea. If you are experiencing TMD symptoms, the professionals at Northern Nevada Center for Orofacial Pain can help you alleviate your symptoms and get control of your life. Call today to make an appointment with one of our trained specialists and find the quality TMD care you need.