The Relationship Between Bruxism and TMJ Disorder

Tmj,Medical,Abbreviation,Of,Temporomandibular,Joint.,Tmj,Letters,Surrounded,ByTMJ and teeth grinding are closely connected. If you frequently grind or clench your teeth, you likely have a condition known as bruxism. While mild bruxism may not require treatment, severe bruxism can negatively impact the health of your teeth and jaw.

Bruxism is often related to temporomandibular joint disorder (known as TMD). Temporomandibular joint disorder is a painful condition that occurs when the jaw joint is misaligned.

Bruxism and TMJ often occur together in patients, especially those who have a tendency to grind their teeth at night. In this post, we will explore the difference between TMJ vs bruxism, the relationship between the conditions, and possible treatment options at our dental office in Oakton, VA.

Is Bruxism The Same as TMJ?

No, though they are often related, teeth grinding is not the same as TMJ. TMJ specifically refers to your temporomandibular joint, which acts as a sliding hinge to help you open and close your jaw.

When a person experiences tenderness, sensitivity, pain, and even locking of the TMJ, this is known as temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition in which you unconsciously clench your jaw or grind your teeth. Some people experience this while awake, and others suffer from the condition during sleep.

The risk factors for bruxism include:

    • Stress: If you have awake bruxism, it may be due to anxiety and stress. These emotions, as well as anger, tension, and frustration, can lead to teeth grinding. Some people also clench their jaw when dealing with intense emotions or when concentrating deeply.
    • Genetics: Sleep bruxism can be the result of genetics. If members of your family have a history of bruxism, you may have an increased risk of suffering from the condition.
    • Other disorders: Some mental health and medical disorders, such as dementia, night terrors, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy, can be associated with bruxism.
  • Malocclusions: Patients with dental malocclusions (misaligned teeth and jaw) struggle with teeth grinding, jaw clenching, and TMJ pain.

You may not suspect that you suffer from bruxism until you experience symptoms such as damage to your teeth, headaches, and facial or jaw pain. That is why it is essential to schedule regular dental visits to detect this condition and prevent any additional dental complications.

Can Teeth Grinding Cause TMJ?

Yes, unconsciously clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth can lead to TMJ dysfunction. Teeth grinding can lead to jaw misalignment, which can cause the temporomandibular joint not to function correctly.

Bruxism is also clinically noted for overloading the TMJ, leading to ongoing pain and discomfort.

TMJ vs Bruxism

TMJ pain, or TMD, is a disorder that affects the temporomandibular joint. Bruxism is the dental term for teeth grinding, which typically involves unconsciously clenching the jaw and placing extreme pressure on the TMJ.

You can have TMJ without bruxism and vice versa. They are independent of each other. However, many patients with bruxism have TMD, so they need a skilled dentist who can understand the connection between the two and craft an effective treatment plan.

The goal is to not only alleviate TMJ pain but also improve the patient’s bite and address any damage teeth grinding has caused to their teeth.

How Can Bruxism Contribute to TMD?

People who grind their teeth or clench their jaw do not necessarily develop TMD. However, in some cases, bruxism can lead to TMD or aggravate an existing condition.

Over time, severe bruxism can change your bite. Excessive grinding can gradually push your teeth out of their proper position.

Bruxism can also cause damage to your teeth and dental restorations, resulting in a misaligned bite. If your upper and lower teeth do not close together correctly, your muscles may reposition the temporomandibular joints out of their sockets to force your teeth together. Jaw misalignment can lead to TMJ disorder.

The symptoms of bruxism and TMD are very similar. Schedule a comprehensive dental examination with Dr. Michael Chung if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe and frequent headaches
  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw, neck, or face
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
  • Pain in and around your ear

Prevent TMD by Managing Bruxism

If you suffer from bruxism, it is important to manage or treat the condition to prevent TMD. Dr. Chung will discuss your treatment options during your consultation.

The following methods may help you avoid grinding and clenching your teeth:

  • Sleeping with a night guard: If you grind your teeth at night, Dr Chung may create a custom mouth guard to wear while you sleep. This will help protect your teeth and avoid any further damage.
  • Wearing a bite splint: Dr. Chung may recommend that you wear a bite splint to alleviate the pain and damage that bruxism can cause. The splint will prevent unwanted movement of your teeth and jaw.
  • Reducing your stress: If your bruxism is related to anxiety or stress, reducing these emotions will likely improve your condition. Stress management techniques such as deep breathing and meditation may be beneficial.
  • Practicing jaw relaxation: Dr. Chung may discuss how you can learn to consciously relax your jaw throughout the day.

If you have dental damage or a misaligned bite due to bruxism, this should be treated to reduce your risk of developing TMD.

Bruxism and TMD: Treatment Options

The biggest concern patients have when seeing a dentist for TMJ pain is their jaw alignment. They often ask if teeth grinding can cause jaw problems, and the answer is, unfortunately, yes. On a brighter note, treatment options are available through physiologic dentistry that can help you find long-lasting relief.

You and your dentist can also discuss treatment options for restoring teeth that have been worn down or misaligned from teeth grinding.

Neuromuscular dentists like Dr. Chung have undergone advanced training to help patients address concerns related to facial alignment and jaw dysfunction.

He can help you manage bruxism TMJ pain through customized treatments such as jaw exercises, custom mouth guards, physical therapy, and dental work that improves your bite.

Schedule Your Consultation

You deserve relief from TMJ pain. Our team is here to help. The most important step you can take to manage bruxism and prevent the development of TMJ is to schedule a comprehensive dental examination.

Contact Softouch Dental Care at 703-747-9735 to make an appointment with Dr. Chung. We welcome patients from Oakton, Vienna, McLean, and nearby areas of Northern Virginia.

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What Happens in a Consultation?

  • 01.

    Get to know Dr. Chung.

  • 02.

    Help him understand you and your goals.

  • 03.

    Learn about his services and specialties.

“Dr. Chung is the best, he has cared for me for over 15 years. He is always available. He has been attentive and taken care of all my issues before they were painful or bad. He has helped me with a good program for taking care of my teeth and they are beautiful. I receive complements about my pretty teeth and smile. The staff is attentive to detail they have prevented the things we dread. I have great respect for his care and his opinions and so happy to have found him.”

– Patricia Debearn

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