What do all of the following questions have in common?
Are you worried about getting your taxes done this year?
Have too many things on your "to-do" list and not enough time to do it?
Are you planning a move?
Answer: All of these situations cause stress, which could lead to tooth grinding or clenching, and eventually to temporomandibular disorder (TMD), reports the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing education.Overloading the tiny muscles in your jaw can cause TMD.
What Causes TMD? The cause of TMD is not clear, but dentists believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself.
Injury to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck – such as from a heavy blow or whiplash – can cause TMD
Grinding or clenching the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMJDislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket
Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJStress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth
What Are the Symptoms of TMD? People with TMD can experience severe pain and discomfort that can be temporary or last for many years. More women than men experience TMD, and TMD is seen most commonly in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Common symptoms of TMD include:
Pain or tenderness in the face, jaw joint area, neck and shoulders, and in or around the ear when you chew, speak, or open your mouth wide
Limited ability to open the mouth very wideJaws that get "stuck" or "lock" in the open- or closed-mouth position
Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth (which may or may not be accompanied by pain) or chewing
A tired feeling in the faceDifficulty chewing or a sudden uncomfortable bite – as if the upper and lower teeth are not fitting together properly
Swelling on the side of the faceMay occur on one or both sides of the face
Other common symptoms of TMD include toothaches, headaches, neck aches, dizziness, earaches, hearing problems, upper shoulder pain, and ringing in the ears (tinnitis). How Is TMD Diagnosed? Because many other conditions can cause similar symptoms to TMD – including a toothache, sinus problems, arthritis, or gum disease – your dentist will conduct a careful patient history and physical examination to determine the cause of your symptoms.