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What is the Difference between Bruxism and TMJ Disorder?

TMJ Bruxism

In the dental world, the terms “bruxism” and “TMJ disorder” or “TMJD” are used together quite frequently, and understandably so. After all, both of these issues exhibit similar symptoms. However, they are separate and different problems – and a thorough diagnosis is required to determine an appropriate treatment plan. Today, our team at Glenora Family Dental clinic in Edmonton will explore the similarities and differences between bruxism and TMJ disorder, and will discuss how a custom mouth guard can help alleviate the symptoms of both conditions.

What is bruxism?

Simply stated, bruxism refers to tooth grinding or clenching. In most cases, bruxism occurs during sleep, but there are also many individuals who subconsciously grind their teeth when awake. There are several factors that can attribute to the development of bruxism, including stress and dental anatomy. Patients who only grind their teeth occasionally may not experience discomfort or dental damage. However, for those who suffer from bruxism routinely, it can lead to a host of issues such as tooth erosion, cracked teeth, earaches, headaches, tooth decay, inflamed gums, and facial nerve pain.

What is TMJ disorder?

The temporomandibular joints, situated on either side of the jaw, hold the upper and lower jaw together and are responsible for movements such as speaking, eating, and even making facial expressions. When working properly, the jaw joints facilitate smooth, comfortable movements. However, if the jaw joints are out of alignment, the muscles around them work overtime to try to correct the problem. This misalignment could occur for a number of reasons, including anatomy, injury, or arthritis, among other things. Eventually, these muscles will become fatigued and inflamed, placing stress on the nerves in the area. If left untreated, this can result in an array of symptoms, including jaw pain, headaches, earaches, facial pain, toothaches, and neck, shoulder, or back pain. This condition is referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD).

How does TMJD affect bruxism?

With similar symptoms and side effects, it is easy to understand how bruxism and TMJ are often grouped into the same category. While they are separate conditions, they are often closely related. In fact, TMJD can lead to bruxism and vice versa. For example, if you suffer from untreated bruxism long enough, the teeth can become worn down. This process would inevitably change the way your teeth fit together, which could also have a negative impact on the position of the jaw joints, leading to TMJD. Conversely, if you develop TMJD, one of the symptoms could very well be bruxism. Because all elements of your smile work together harmoniously, it can be difficult to pinpoint the source of a problem when it occurs. That is why a professional dental examination is so important if you begin to develop tooth or jaw pain.

Bruxism and TMJD treatment

Bruxism and TMJD can be treated with a custom mouth guard at our Edmonton dental office, which is typically worn during sleep. These oral appliances are designed to fit your anatomy for a more comfortable fit. Mouth guards can be crafted from soft or rigid materials, depending on the unique needs of the patient. A dental appliance intended to treat bruxism will simply cushion the teeth and keep them separated, while a guard designed to treat TMJD will focus on placing the jaw joints in a more favourable position. During an initial consultation with Dr. VandenBrink, he can help you determine if a custom oral appliance can meet your needs.

Learn more about custom mouth guards in Edmonton

If you are suffering from jaw pain, headaches, earaches, or any other symptoms of bruxism or TMJD, schedule a TMJD treatment consultation at our Edmonton, AB dental clinic.