Bruxism and TMJ disorder: What is the difference?

best dentists in The ColonyPatients who come to the dentist with complaints of jaw and facial pain may be diagnosed with a number of conditions that cause those symptoms.

Two potential sources of such discomfort are bruxism and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which are two separate issues, although they may be related in some patients.

The best dentists work to discern whether a patient’s symptoms are due to bruxism or a TMJ disorder (or some other condition) in order to use the most effective intervention for the specific case.

Bruxism occurs when the patient grinds or clenches the teeth but is unaware of it. Teeth grinding is more common at night, but it can take place during the day as well. Stress is often at the root of bruxism, but misaligned teeth may also be the problem.

The effects of bruxism can manifest as jaw pain, earache or headache or noticeably worn teeth. A partner’s sleep may be disrupted by a patient’s bruxism, and that may be what makes the patient initially aware of bruxism.

TMJ disorders cover a broader class of problems within the complex structure where your mandible, or lower jaw, attaches to the rest of your skull.

Because the jaw joint is so complex, a TMJ disorder can arise from any number of causes. Bruxism can cause a TMJ disorder, but other factors such as a jaw injury or a congenital defect in the jaw may be at fault instead.

Some symptoms of TMJ disorders are similar to those of bruxism – specifically, the potential of accompanying pain in the jaw or face, or frequent earaches or headaches. Patients with a TMJ disorder often notice popping or clicking sounds that emanate from the jaw, and their jaw joints may lock up from time to time.

Treatments for the two conditions differ, as well. Bruxism can typically be addressed through a mouthguard worn by a patient at night. Relaxation exercises may be helpful, as well. In comparison, a dentist may use a variety of techniques, ranging from medications to orthodontic treatment to—in rare cases—surgery to address TMJ disorders.

If you are experiencing unexplained jaw pain, visit our team of the best dentists in The Colony for a diagnosis and effective treatment.