What is jaw pain from stress? Exploring the effects of anxiety on the jaw

The reasons for jaw pain from stress. (Image by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels)
The reasons for jaw pain from stress. (Image by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels)

Jaw pain from stress is something that we have all experienced, more or less. This happens, especially when we might have been clenching our teeth out of anger or anxiety for a while.

Stress and jaw discomfort are inextricably linked because one of the most common signs of anxiety is muscle strain. Clenching the jaw muscles and grinding the teeth generate strain in the jaw muscles, which is suggestive of stress induced by acute anxiety.

Stress in jaw muscles leading to aches caused by teeth-grinding or jaw-clenching is also known as "bruxism." Jaw-clenching associated with anxiety might aggravate certain temporomandibular joint or TMJ disorders. So, if you are experiencing similar symptoms, especially during or after anxiety attacks, then this article might be just for you.


What is jaw tension anxiety?

Jaw pain from stress is often a symptom of anxiety. (Image by iStockphoto via Pexels)
Jaw pain from stress is often a symptom of anxiety. (Image by iStockphoto via Pexels)

To understand the relationship between jaw tension and anxiety, we must first look into the way anxiety makes itself felt in the system before severely affecting any particular muscle group. Anxiety disorders could range from particular fears and phobias to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Anxiety, as has been defined by medical professionals, is a “future-oriented mood state” that is linked with the preparation of the human system for anticipated threats. Anxiety can generate a wide range of symptoms that could affect all sorts of muscles in the body. These could also include smooth muscle contractions.

The tension in muscles that people often experience during an anxiety attack is usually in the form of jaw clenching. The connection between this type of behavior and anxiety seems to stem from the behaviors of the neurotransmitters that carry out brain functions.

Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are in charge of mood regulation along with controlling certain movements of the body. Any imbalance in neurotransmitters can lead to several disorders of movement. In fact, bruxism itself is a type of movement disorder that might occur from neurotransmitter imbalances, according to certain recent medical studies.

An important discovery in this domain has been the role of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) in causing jaw clenching in certain individuals. Some people may experience jaw-clenching after going on such medications.


Stress and jaw pain symptoms pertaining to jaw tension

Jaw pain from stress can be caused by teeth-clenching for longer periods. (Image via Pexels)
Jaw pain from stress can be caused by teeth-clenching for longer periods. (Image via Pexels)

Anxiety can manifest itself in several different ways. Some of the symptoms can be so subtle that one could easily miss out on noticing the actual cause of it. The following are the symptoms of jaw pain from stress:

  • Teeth-grinding when awake or asleep
  • Teeth or jaw ache
  • Holding the jaw forward or to the side
  • Teeth-clenching
  • Biting things for extended periods of time

If you notice yourself doing or having any of the above, you might have tension and jaw pain from stress.


How to treat jaw pain from stress?

jaw pain from stress can be treated by using an anterior bite guard. (Image by iStockphoto via Pexels)
jaw pain from stress can be treated by using an anterior bite guard. (Image by iStockphoto via Pexels)

If you think you are facing extreme anxiety disorders that are setting in as aches in the jaw, it is time to consult a physician about the underlying causes of your tension. However, the most efficient way to get instant relief from jaw pain from stress is to use an anterior bite guard. A bite guard is an oral splint that is custom-fit to cover the anterior teeth, leaving the back teeth uncovered.

The object is designed to restrict involuntary jaw-clenching caused by tension. People with stress and jaw pain or teeth-clenching notice instant relief when using an anterior bite guard. It releases muscle fatigue and tension from the jaws, relaxing the muscles in the mouth and, in turn, enabling the individual to cope well with anxiety.

Other measures that could be used to bring relief to muscle fatigue in the jaws might include:

  • Heat therapy: Using a heat pack to comfort pain in the affected part. It can also increase blood circulation for improved muscle flexibility.
  • Resting the jaw: Consuming a soft diet and avoiding chewy food to give the jaw muscles some rest.
  • Physical therapy: This involves gently massaging the affected part to decrease aches and muscle spasms. These can include a range of gentle motion exercises to alleviate pain.

No matter what the reason for your fears and worries is, it is advisable to immediately consult a mental health expert on the subject to get rid of the core concern. Jaw pain from stress is a symptom of anxiety making itself felt physically, and this can often cause disorders in the muscles themselves.

Conscious efforts should be taken to relax the muscles if clenching occurs. Mindfulness about the situation is key to controlling painful spasms, and breathing techniques could be of immense help in such cases.

Edited by Babylona Bora