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The Impact of TMJ on Emotional Health and How to Address It

Temporomandibular joint syndrome, abbreviated as TMJ, is a condition that affects the jaw joint and its related muscles. It’s estimated that up to 10 million people in the US may have TMJ with varying degrees of severity. While pain in the joints is most often thought of when planning for TMJ, it’s also important to consider the potential for emotional impacts on your well-being.

Common Causes of TMJ and Emotional Impacts

There are several causes of TMJ, including injury to the joint or associated mouth structures, arthritis, clenching or grinding of the teeth, or even stress. Like other chronic pain conditions, TMJ is often associated with emotional impacts. These may include irritability, anxiety, depression, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating. TMJ pain can also make it difficult to engage in physical activity, which may also make it more challenging to manage the impacts of depression and anxiety.

Benefits of Addressing TMJ

If left unmanaged, TMJ pain and its associated emotional impacts can become more intense and long lasting. It may also lead to increased use of prescription pain medications and potentially more serious impacts on mental health. If addressed, TMJ pain can usually be managed and its associated emotional impacts can be minimized.

Strategies for Managing TMJ and Addressing Emotional Impacts

Treatment of TMJ largely depends on the specific underlying cause, but seeking medical guidance is often an essential first step. For pain and emotional management, however, there are several effective strategies that may be helpful.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be helpful for TMJ when the pain is related to muscle tightness or spasm. A physical therapist can provide exercises that are designed to stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles. Physical therapy can also help individuals develop better posture, which can help to minimize associated chronic pain.

Oral Devices

Oral devices, often referred to as special bite guards, can be an effective way to manage TMJ. These devices can be used to facilitate the movement of the jaw joint to promote its alignment and minimize associated pain. They can also be an effective way to prevent teeth grinding, a common cause of TMJ.

Cognitive Behavioral Strategies

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be an effective way to address pain and anxiety related to TMJ. CBT entails learning to identify and modify unhelpful thought patterns that can exacerbate pain, as well as learning effective stress management strategies. These strategies can be very effective for managing TMJ symptoms and minimizing associated emotional impacts.

Exercise and Relaxation Strategies

Regular exercise has been linked with a range of physical and mental health benefits, and can be especially beneficial for some individuals with TMJ. Yoga, tai chi, and other forms of gentle exercise can be an effective way to alleviate muscle tightness and spasm, as well as promote relaxation and improve mood. Regular relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and imagery can also be helpful in managing emotional impacts of TMJ.


TMJ can have a significant impact on emotional health, but treatment and management strategies are available to help address both the pain and its associated emotional impacts. Physical therapy, use of oral devices, cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, and relaxation strategies can all be effective tools for managing the symptoms of TMJ and minimizing its emotional impacts. If you are experiencing symptoms of TMJ, be sure to seek medical guidance to discuss your treatment and management options.