For some people, temporomandibular joint disorders (abbreviated TMJ or TMD) cause temporary symptoms that improve after a short time using simple home care approaches. However, for others, TMJ is chronic pain, either constant or recurring regularly. For these people, chronic TMJ pain can become a source of depression and disability. TMJ treatment can often prevent these symptoms. If you understand TMJ, TMJ symptoms, and the condition’s link to depression, you can seek proper care to avoid these chronic problems.

man holding his Jaw due to Pain caused by TMJ Disorder

Understanding TMJ and TMJ Symptoms

What are temporomandibular joint disorders? They are a loosely grouped category of conditions that affect the joints between the jaw (mandible) and the skull’s temporal bones.

We currently recognize three main types of TMJ: disc displacement (DD), degenerative joint disorder (DJD), and muscle pain disorder (MPD). DD occurs when the cushioning disc slips in and out of place. It is often associated with symptoms like joint noises, irregular joint motion, jaw pain, and locked jaw. DJD occurs when the joint breaks down, often related to arthritis, with rheumatoid arthritis often attacking the jaw joint before other joints in the body. DJD often causes symptoms like jaw noises and jaw pain. MPD occurs when jaw misalignment or dysfunction impacts the jaw muscles. It results in symptoms like facial pain, headaches, neck pain, tinnitus, vertigo, and more. It’s possible to have more than one type of TMJ, and the symptoms of these types can overlap.

For ease of reference, here is a list of common TMJ symptoms:

  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Facial pain
  • Popping, clicking, and grinding joint noises
  • Irregular jaw motion
  • Limited jaw motion, including locked jaw
  • Excessive tooth wear and breakage
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo and dizziness
  • Ear fullness
  • Earache
  • Back pain
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers

Few people experience all TMJ symptoms at once. If you experience three or more symptoms from the above list, you should talk to a TMJ dentist.

Chronic Pain and Depression

People with chronic pain are often affected by depression. Perhaps 85% of people with chronic pain have depression symptoms, though depression often gets overlooked because of the pain. There are many reasons why people with chronic pain experience depression.

Some of the cause is simply the impact of pain and its resultant disability. People who experience pain every day are more likely to have a negative outlook. Chronic pain doesn’t improve over time, making it harder to be optimistic about the future. People with chronic pain can find it harder to work or do activities they enjoy. This all leads to depression symptoms.

However, there are also neurological links between chronic pain and depression. Neurotransmitters, inflammation, and other biochemical links mean that chronic pain can directly lead to depression symptoms. No wonder it’s common for people with chronic pain to experience depression.

Fortunately, this also means that it’s possible to treat chronic pain and depression together with some treatment approaches in many cases.

Signs of Depression

When you experience chronic pain, you should be on the lookout for signs of depression. After all, your doctor is likely to overlook depression when you have pain, so you need to mention it if you want to be sure of receiving proper care. Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness or a general loss of interest in life or specific activities you used to enjoy. Common symptoms of depression to watch for include:

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Loss of interest
  • Agitation
  • Crying
  • Irritability
  • Deciding to isolate yourself
  • Insomnia or restless sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Thoughts of suicide

This is not a complete list, and many people experience depression differently. However, if you have three or more of the above symptoms, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the possibility of depression.

Avoid Depression and Disability Linked to TMJ

So how can you avoid disability and depression linked to TMJ? Proper care can make a big difference. Here are four tips to help you avoid the depression and disability that can come with TMJ.

Get Treatment Early for TMJ and Depression

Early treatment is key to improving TMJ treatment and depression treatment outcomes. Getting early treatment for TMJ can dramatically reduce your long-term pain and reduce the frequency with which you have to get healthcare by more than 75%, with a corresponding cost reduction.

With TMJ, you should attempt home care for about a week. If symptoms worsen, don’t resolve, or recur, it’s time to seek professional help.

Similarly, early treatment of depression results in better outcomes. Over the long term, you are more likely to get better results if you start treating your depression early before symptoms become too bad.

Consider talking to a professional about depression symptoms on a similar timetable to TMJ. If you have more than a week of essentially continuous depression that doesn’t improve–or if your depression puts you in imminent danger because of suicidal thoughts–it’s time to seek professional care.

Do Your Part

Clinicians are critical to getting proper treatment for TMJ and depression. However, you also have to shoulder some of the burdens to ensure you get good treatment results. This means you should:

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions
  • Communicate honestly with your doctor
  • Don’t pursue self-treatment without discussing it with your doctor

If your doctor recommends exercises that will provide long-term benefits for your condition, you should do them as advised. In addition, you should take all prescribed medications as directed. Avoid activities that your doctor says will worsen your condition.

Your doctor cannot read your mind. You have to tell them honestly how you are feeling, both physically and mentally. You also have to tell them honestly if you have or have not been following recommendations.

These days, it’s easy to find advice online on how to improve your condition. It’s tempting to take some of this advice, even if it contradicts your doctor’s recommendations. However, try not to add self-treatment to your activities until you talk to your doctor about it. If you find you often disagree with your doctor’s recommendations, you should consider getting a new doctor rather than simply ignoring their advice. There are many paths to successful treatment, but the odds of success are better if you’re following one path rather than trying several different approaches that may counteract one another.

Don’t Go It Alone

Your doctor and dentist don’t have to be the only ones to know about your conditions. It’s often easier to get successful treatment of your chronic pain and depression if you enlist the help of family or friends.

Decide which friends you trust most to understand your conditions, then share with them what you’re going through. You will probably find that many of them are happy to help. Some may even be suffering from similar conditions, and you may be able to support each other.

Get Multidisciplinary Care

TMJ and depression are complex conditions and often benefit from multiple treatment modalities applied in concert with each other. To get the best results, it’s recommended that you work with various healthcare professionals who are working together as a team.

At Doolin Haddad Advanced Dentistry, we are accustomed to working with other healthcare partners to achieve the best possible results for our TMJ patients. We can help you find physical therapists, psychiatrists, chiropractors, and more to help you get comprehensive care for your condition.

Get TMJ Treatment in Rochester

If you suspect you have TMJ and depression in Rochester, MI, it’s time to get help. Please call (248) 656-2020 or use our online form today to request an appointment with a TMJ dentist at Doolin Haddad Advanced Dentistry in Rochester, MI.