Bruxism, or tooth grinding and clenching, and TMJ disorder can be related, but they are not the same thing. If you grind your teeth, it could be because you have TMJ disorder, or it could be the cause of your TMJ disorder. In other cases, bruxism occurs separately from TMJ problems. Our dentist can determine the cause of your bruxism and whether or not the TMJ is misaligned.
What is TMJ Disorder?
TMJ disorder is a misalignment of the temporomandibular joint, also known as the TMJ. This joint is located where the lower jaw, or mandible, meets the temporal bones of the skull, in the vicinity of the ear. When this joint is misaligned, numerous symptoms can result, including:
- Persistent and often severe headaches
- Discomfort in the neck, jaw or upper back
- Clicking in the jaw or ear
- Discomfort in the ear
The misalignment of the joint can also cause you to inadvertently grind your teeth, especially at night. In other cases, a teeth grinding habit, caused by stress or malocclusion, can cause the TMJ to be gradually pushed out of position. Bruxism, then, can exist as a symptom or a root cause of TMJ, or can be completely unrelated to TMJ, or exist in the absence of a problem with the TMJ.
Treating Bruxism and TMJ Disorder
Once your dentist has diagnosed bruxism, TMJ disorder, or both, he can recommend treatment. Since teeth grinding usually occurs at night, the most common treatment is a mouth guard. This guard is custom molded to fit your teeth, and you wear it while you sleep to reduce the pressure on your teeth. It also helps prevent damage to your teeth when you clench or grind.
TMJ disorder can also be treated with similar orthotic devices. For more extensive treatment, your dentist might recommend alterations to your bite using orthodontics or restorations such as veneers or bonding to shift your bite into proper alignment. Changing your bite will also change the alignment of the TMJ, reducing the stress on this joint as well as the associated discomfort and other symptoms.
If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of bruxism or TMJ disorder in the Toronto area, contact Nicholas Kemp Dentistry at 416-922-1012 and schedule your consultation today.