Even subtle repeated traumas, like clenching the teeth or excessive gum chewing, nail biting or cradling a phone between your shoulder and the side of your head can cause TMJ TMD. These conditions can also be caused by a bad bite (dental malocclusion), which is not synchronized with healthy muscle and joint function. Systemic diseases and developmental abnormalities also can cause TMJ TMD.
Stress and tension may awaken a quiet, asymptomatic TMJ TMD or aggravate an existing temporomandibular condition. However, stress alone does not cause TMJ TMD if a patient has healthy dental occlusion and muscle and jaw function.
All too often patients are classified as "chronic pain patients" and their complaints pigeonholed as stress or psychological disorders. These patients may be relegated to treatment focusing only on medication and counseling, with no treatment of the physical cause of their illness. A thorough analysis of each patient is essential to determine the source of pain. Early and appropriate treatment of a TMJ TMD may avoid the progression to a chronic pain state.