Bruxism and temporomandibular joint disorder (often called TMJ) are related conditions with similar symptoms that both affect the jaw. In fact, if you're having symptoms such as upper jaw pain, lower jaw pain, or headache, it might be hard to determine whether you are suffering from bruxism or TMJ. Mouth guard for TMJ and bruxism is considered a reliable solution to ease the associated pain.
Bruxism is a condition where you grind and clench your teeth, typically at night. TMJ is a dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint, which connects your jaw to your skull.
If you suspect you have bruxism or TMJ, refrain from diagnosing yourself; instead, visit your dentist to receive an accurate diagnosis before proceeding with any treatment. These two conditions can present with very similar symptoms, making it easy to mistake one for the other. In this article, you'll learn more about the causes, symptoms, and potential treatments of each condition.
TMJ is often called many different names, including temporomandibular joint disorder, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, TMJ disorder, TMJ dysfunction, temporomandibular disorder, and TMD. It's estimated that TMJ affects between 5-12% of the population, and it affects women more than men.
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TMJ is a dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint, which connects your jaw to your skull. Every time you open or close your mouth, you're using your temporomandibular joint. Because this is such a commonly used joint, severe TMJ can affect your quality of living. A dysfunction in this joint can have many possible causes:
- A direct injury to the joint
- Excessive stress on the jaw muscles, which can be caused by bruxism
- Abnormal bite or teeth alignment
These are only suspected causes, however; it is often hard to determine the exact cause of TMJ. If you develop dysfunction in your temporomandibular joint, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Popping sounds when opening or closing your jaw
- Earaches or ringing in your ears
- Jaw clenching
- Sore jaw and painful jaw
- Locking of your jaw or difficulty opening and closing your jaw
- Pain while chewing
- Pain that radiates from the joint to your temples, face, neck, or shoulders
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
Bruxism is the teeth grinding or the clenching of your teeth, most commonly at night, but some people clench and grind their teeth during the daytime as well. Daytime bruxism is called awake bruxism and nighttime bruxism is called sleep bruxism. It's estimated that bruxism affects between 8-16% of the adult population.
As with TMJ, it is often difficult to determine the cause of bruxism. Some of the common suspected causes include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Medication (bruxism might be a side effect of certain medications including SSRIs)
- Jaw misalignment
- Drug, alcohol, and tobacco use
- Sleep apnea
Regardless of the cause of your bruxism, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Tooth sensitivity and toothache
- Broken, chipped, or cracked teeth
- Worn or flattened teeth
- Jaw or face pain
- Jaw soreness
- Disrupted sleep (your partner might also experience disrupted sleep if your grinding is loud)
Best Mouth Guard for TMJ and Bruxism Treatment
Mouth guards can be used to help treat and relieve the symptoms of both TMJ and bruxism. In both cases, the use of a night guard won't cure your TMJ or bruxism, but they can make living with these conditions more tolerable. The types of mouth guards used for each are very different, however.
TMJ Mouth Guard (Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Mouthguard)
Your dentist might recommend a mouth guard for TMJ, which is also often called a splint. It's a hard plastic dental guard that you'll wear either on your upper teeth or lower teeth. The purpose of the tmjsplint is to help reposition, stabilize, and take the pressure off your jaw and reduce or eliminate your symptoms of TMJ. When your dentist fits you for a TMJ mouth guard, you may need multiple adjustments to get the fit that works perfectly for you. Once fitted correctly, you should find relief from your TMJ symptoms.
Bruxism Mouth Guard
Your dentist might also recommend a bruxism guard if you have bruxism, and this is a different type of mouthguard than the kind used for TMJ. A bruxism mouth guard is worn on either your upper or lower teeth, and it is made of a hard plastic material or a softer, more pliable material. Your dentist may recommend a certain type of dental night guard that will work best for you and your bruxism. You can purchase an over-the-countermouth guard, or it can be a custom mouth guard for grinding teeth. If you get a well fitting night guard, you should see your symptoms of bruxism greatly reduce.
Other TMJ and Bruxism Treatments
While wearing a dental guard is not very invasive, with both conditions, there are more and less invasive treatment options. After talking to your dentist, if you determine that your TMJ or bruxism is very mild, you might benefit from trying some of the less invasive treatment options. For conditions that are severe or that do not see relief from mouth guards, more invasive treatments are available as well. Always consult with a medical professional before beginning any treatment.
After your dentist or doctor evaluates you and determines the severity of your TMJ, he or she can recommend treatment that will work best for you. Some of those treatments might include:
- Over-the-counterpain relief medications
- Cold or hot therapy
- Using a night guard if your dentist suspects your TMJ pain is caused by bruxism
- Relaxation techniques
- Jaw exercises and stretches to relieve pain
- Avoiding extreme and repetitive jaw movements, like yawning or chewing gum
- Physical therapy
- Surgery for extreme or stubborn cases
Wearing a bruxismnight guard is the most common treatment for bruxism, but it certainly isn't the only option. Treatments for bruxism are aimed at reducing symptoms and/or eliminating your bruxism altogether. Treatment options include:
- Stress management and relaxation techniques
- Icing your jaw
- Practicing consciously properly aligning your jaw
- Braces to properly align your teeth
- Muscle relaxants
- Botox for bruxism to weaken the muscles responsible
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Whether you suffer from TMJ or bruxism or aren't sure, always consult with a medical professional before beginning a treatment plan.
For patients suffering from TMJ disorders, we do NOT recommend ordering a night guard online. Instead, they should seek a solution from their dentist.