When Face Pain & Depression Happen Together

What does the mouth have to with the mind? More than you might think!

face_painDepression and jaw, face, head and neck pain have been known to sometimes exist simultaneously – often stemming from the TM joints, the “hinges” that let your mouth open and close. They’re also among the few joints in the body that use articular discs – oval shaped discs made of fibrocartilage that allow for separate movements in those specific joints.

Misalignment, repeated stress or damage to the TMJ eventually leads to a pain syndrome known as temporomandibular disorder (or dysfunction), TMD for short.

The correlation between TMJ pain and depression presents kind of a chicken and egg problem: Is depression a response to the pain or does the pain give rise to depression? A recent study in Acta Odontologica Scandinavica concluded that it may be the former – that “depressiveness increases the risk for chronic facial pain.”

This study builds upon earlier ones of how psychological factors affect pain symptoms. All together, these cast light on the fact that typical treatment with antidepressants or painkillers may never completely address the whole problem.

Rather, the whole patient must be treated for complete health.

When you think about it, it’s kind of odd to deal with symptoms in isolation, as if they’re independent of what happens elsewhere in the body. Holistic dentistry, on the other hand, looks for and treats root causes. We respect the impact dental conditions may have on the body as a whole – and how systemic issues may lead to problems in the mouth.

It may so happen that if you treat facial pain associated with TMD, depression will subside. In our office, Dr. Sprinkle’s first line of treatment is noninvasive and drug-free, employing dental appliances that are easy to use. Patients who come in initially for help with chronic headaches or face pain typically report improved mood and energy levels as their physical symptoms dissipate.

The whole body benefits as the fundamental cause is addressed.

Doctors and patients alike have found what happens in the mouth is reflected elsewhere. We know that periodontal health has an effect on the entire body through the common denominator of inflammation. Other studies have shown the dynamics of oral health and hygiene on other aspects of systemic health. Biological dentists further know how each tooth is connected with other organs throughout the body via the meridian system established by Traditional Chinese Medicine. (You can learn more about those tooth-body connections by using our interactive Meridian Tooth Chart.)

Biological dentistry is cognizant that “what happens in the mouth is reflected in the body, and what happens in the body is reflected in the mouth” – not just physically, but mentally, as well.

Learn more about how we can help you find relief from jaw, face, head and neck pain

Image by Cara, via Flickr

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