An Emotional Look at TMJ Disorder

It’s no secret that the state of your oral health can affect various areas of your systemic wellbeing. For instance, the bacterial infection that causes gum inflammation, and consequently gum disease, has been shown to exacerbate inflammation related to certain heart diseases. Severe dental disease can also increase your risk of respiratory infections and other serious illnesses, but fewer people are aware of the impact that your mouth’s function can have on your overall quality of life. Today, we examine a common functional dental issue, TMJ disorder, and how studies suggest its related discomfort can affect your emotional wellbeing.

About TMJ Disorder

Tooth decay and gum disease are popular (and widespread) dental issues that affect the more obvious tissues within your mouth; your teeth and gums. By contrast, TMJ disorder affects the joints that allow your jaw to move and make use of your teeth. Your temporomandibular joints, or TMJs, connect your lower jaw, called a mandible, to the temporal bones located in front of each ear. When your bite is perfectly aligned, your jaw glides smoothly along these joints, evenly displacing the pressure of chewing. When your bite is imbalanced, however, these joints and the muscles around them work overtime to keep your mouth straight enough to function. The extra strain can damage your TMJs and disturb the trigeminal nerve branch that innervates your jaw.

Trigeminal Nerves and Emotional Health

The diversity of TMJ discomfort, which can range from a sore jaw to chronic severe migraines, stems from the fact that your trigeminal nerve’s three branches pass through much of your head, neck, and facial structures. When one area of the nerve is disturbed, the pain can be transferred throughout its branches, leading to a wide variety of symptoms that can make diagnosis difficult. One study that evaluated the medical health, oral health, and psychiatric reviews of 3,000 participants suggests that patients with chronic TMJ discomfort were more likely to suffer depressive symptoms. While the agony of chronic, often-undiagnosed pain can certainly contribute, experts also believe that the results may indicate that TMJ discomfort can be a physical manifestation of anxiety and/or depression.


As a native Texan, Gregory Wright, DDS, opened his private practice in Southlake, TX in 1992. He and Dr. Victoria Heron are happily accepting new patients from Southlake, Grapevine, Keller, Trophy Club, Colleyville, and all surrounding communities. To learn more, call our office today at (817) 481-7999.