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Dental Disease Overview

Stress-Related Dental Problems

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. TMJ and the related disorder MPD can cause pain in the joints and ligaments of the jaw.

Stress affects the body in many ways. It has been linked to depression, high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and a number of other ills. What you may not be aware of, however, is that excessive stress can damage your teeth and jaws. 

Two stress-related disorders that affect the mouth are temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) and myofacial pain dysfunction (MPD). Although not technically diseases, these two disorders can be very unpleasant. TMJ causes pain in the joints and ligaments of the jaw. MPD is a similar affliction, although the term may refer to stress-related pain in any part of the face (not just the jaw). Both are (for unknown reasons) most likely to affect women in their 20s and 30s but can affect both sexes at any age.


The following may be signs of TMJ or MPD:

  • A clicking, cracking, or popping sensation when you open your mouth to yawn or laugh
  • An inability to open your mouth wide
  • Tension or tenderness in your cheek muscles (especially first thing in the morning)

If you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis, you should consult your doctor, as well as your dentist. One of the following therapies may be recommended:

  • Relaxation exercises (Since TMJ and MPD are related to tension, deliberate attempts at relaxation may help alleviate them.)
  • Gentle massage to ease the pain and help relax the affected muscles
  • A custom polyurethane mouth guard made from an impression of your teeth (One of the prime causes of TMJ and MPD is nighttime teeth grinding or jaw clenching. A mouth guard worn over your lower set of teeth can prevent them from grinding against the uppers. It also provides a cushioning effect, which may ease the stress on your tired jaw muscles and ligaments.)
  • Avoiding excessive trauma to the painful areas (Stay away from hard and crunchy foods, try not to open your mouth too wide, and -- if possible -- postpone any unrelated dental surgery.)

Be sure to take care of your teeth to avoid painful and pontentially damaging tooth disorders. Good oral hygiene is your best defense against dental diseases -- and remember to keep an eye on your stress levels, too.

Your teeth need lots of care and attention to ensure life-long good oral health. Visit the links below for more information about protecting and caring for your teeth.

  • Good oral hygine is important for oral health as well as overall health. In How Oral Hygiene Works, learn how to best take care of your pearly whites. 
  • Do you wish your teeth had just a bit more sparkle to them? How Tooth Whitening Works takes a look at procedures you can undergo to brighten and whiten your teeth.
  • When you have an ache in your teeth, getting rid of it is the only thought in your head. In How to Relieve a Tooth Ache, find out how to deal with dental distress.


The American Institute for Preventive Medicine, located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, is dedicated to helping people change to a healthier lifestyle through successful wellness programs, products, and publications. It works with over 5,000 hospitals, HMOs, corporations, and government agencies throughout North America. The Institute has been honored and recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for its innovative health programs.


Don R. Powell, Ph.D., is the founder and president of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine. He is a licensed psychologist who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and taught in the University's psychology department.  He is an authority on the design, marketing, and implementation of community and corporate health education programs. Dr. Powell has won numerous awards for his work in the field of health promotion and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio talk shows.

Abe Gershonowicz, D.D.S., has been practicing general dentistry for 20 years in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

Brianna Politzer is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, nutrition, and technology. She has contributed to many consumer publications, including The Home Remedies Handbook, Women's Home Remedies Health Guide, and The Medical Book of Health Hints and Tips.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.