What Is the Relationship Between Bruxism and TMJ?

Is there a link between bruxism and tmj

A painful jaw may be a sign of TMJ or bruxism.

Bruxism and TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction) often occur in conjunction with each other, but they aren’t the same thing. These conditions can both impact how you’re able to bite, chew, and move your jaw, and they can both cause pain.

Getting immediate treatment for symptoms of bruxism or TMJ is critical. The pain that you experience from these can be life altering. In some cases, they can progress to the point that they impact your day-to-day life. Getting bruxism and TMJ diagnosed ensures you get the treatment you need to protect your dental health.

What is bruxism?

Bruxism is the unconscious grinding or clenching of the teeth. It can occur during the day, but it’s more common at night. It’s estimated that just over 18% of children and adults suffer from this condition.

People who suffer from bruxism may experience jaw muscle pain. In some cases, tooth pain is also present because of the pressure that’s placed on the teeth when the person is grinding their teeth or clenching their jaw.

While mild bruxism doesn’t require any treatment, moderate to severe cases need to be treated because serious complications can occur. Symptoms of bruxism, such as headaches and facial pain, can make it difficult to handle your daily life tasks.

Bruxism often affects people experiencing stress. Finding ways to calm down when you’re angry, stressed, or frustrated can help to alleviate bruxism.

What is TMJ?

TMJ affects an estimated 12% of Americans, the majority of whom are females. This condition affects the temporomandibular joint, which connects the lower jaw to the skull on each side. A person who has this condition will usually have pain in the associated muscles.

There are many things that can contribute to TMJ, but it’s usually a combination of factors that causes the condition. You may suffer from TMJ if you have contributing factors, including a jaw injury or arthritis.

This condition can lead to a variety of symptoms. Many of these can negatively impact your ability to enjoy life. The jaw joints may become very painful, and they may lock up. Your face can ache, and you may experience ear pain. Debilitating headaches are also possible.

The good news is that with proper treatment, you can enjoy your life without having to deal with the pain that comes with TMJ and bruxism.

How does bruxism affect TMJ?

Bruxism is a contributing factor for TMJ because of the pressure it puts on the jaw joint. This can cause damage to the joint, which changes how the joint responds to the movement of the lower jaw. Misalignments of the joint, tissue inflammation, and soreness can make the symptoms of TMJ and the consequences of it more serious.

The longer bruxism is allowed to continue, the worse the symptoms of TMJ are likely going to be. Some people might not recognize the symptoms of bruxism and TMJ until the conditions have worsened to the point that extreme treatments are required.

How are these two conditions treated?

There are various treatments that help to address bruxism and TMJ. Making sure that they’re both being treated can help to mitigate the damage that’s done. For some patients, treating bruxism provides the relief they need. In extreme cases, surgery is needed to correct the damage that’s been done to the temporomandibular joint.

Some of the more common treatments for bruxism and TMJ include:

  • Using an occlusal appliance or bite splint: These help to prevent movement of the jaw to provide relief from the clenching or grinding of teeth.
  • Sleeping with a mouth guard: A custom mouth guard protects the teeth from damage for those who have sleep bruxism.
  • Conscious relaxation: Doing special relaxation exercises can help you alleviate tension in your jaw while you’re awake.
  • Stress reduction: A reduction in stress can lead to a reduction in bruxism, which can also help with TMJ symptoms.

Of those treatments, mouth guards and occlusal appliances are arguably the most common ones. They’re both highly effective. Some people try to control bruxism and TMJ by using over-the-counter mouth guards or bite guards, but these don’t provide the same level of support and protection as a custom appliance.

What happens if there’s dental damage?

Dental damage due to bruxism is possible. Clenching and grinding teeth can wear the teeth down, which can lead to serious tooth damage. In some cases, it’s severe enough to lead to tooth loss. This can have a negative impact on your smile and your tooth alignment. Fortunately, updates in dental technology make these problems easier to address than they were for past generations.

For patients who are experiencing this, restorative and cosmetic dentistry can restore your smile. Veneers, inlays, and onlays can help address the damage to the teeth. These are the foundation for making your smile appear natural after our experienced team addresses the damage that bruxism and TMJ caused to your teeth.

Oxley Comprehensive Dentistry can help relieve your TMJ pain. 

Dr. Eric B. Oxley and his team of professionals are ready to help patients find relief from bruxism and TMJ. We offer custom appliances, including bite guards and sleep guards, to address the more common symptoms from these two conditions. We also offer comprehensive restorative and cosmetic dentistry, so you can get all the care you need in one location. Contact us for an appointment and start finding relief from your TMJ symptoms today.