Bruxism and TMJ disorders have some similar signs and symptoms; therefore, they can sometimes be a little confusing to identify and differentiate. Bruxism, or the grinding and clenching of teeth, can cause headaches, jaw pain, and worn or cracked teeth. TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder is a different condition which can arise from bruxism and is characterized by pain in the jaw, face, or neck and clicking or popping noises in the jaw joint, among other symptoms.
For patients who experience symptoms of bruxism or TMJ disorders, it is a good idea to see your dentist for diagnosis and treatment of the condition. In treating both bruxism and TMJ disorders, a dentist may recommend the use of a mouth guard or occlusal guard; however, the bruxism mouth guards and the TMJ mouth guards serve different functions. Read on to see how they differ.
Bruxism the clenching or grinding of teeth, is an involuntary action that often occurs at night but may also happen in the daytime. It’s a fairly common condition and affects an estimated 8-16% of adults (source nih.gov). Frequently, people who suffer from bruxism are not aware of the fact they’re grinding and clenching their teeth.
While stress and anxiety are believed to be contributing factors, the cause of bruxism is not clearly known. The symptoms of bruxism include:
- Extreme tooth sensitivity and toothache
- Worn or flattened teeth
- Chipped or cracked teeth
- Pain in the jaw or facial muscles
The most often recommended method for treating bruxism is to wear a dental night guard.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), found on either side of the jaw, holds the upper and the lower jaw together and permits movement. A patient who is suffering from TMJ disorder will experience pain in the jaw muscles or jaw joints.
While the exact cause of the condition is not clear, a number of conditions may lead to TMJ disorder, including:
- Bruxism, which causes strain on the temporomandibular joint
- Abnormal bite/teeth alignment
- Injury to the jaw e.g. via blunt trauma
- Arthritis, resulting in cartilage loss
TMJ disorder is a painful condition that affects between 5-12% of the population (source nih.gov). The symptoms include:
- Pain in the face, jaw, or neck
- Clicking or popping noises in the jaw joint
- Difficulty moving the jaw
Depending on the severity of the condition, there are a variety of treatments for TMJ disorders, from hot and cold packs, to over-the-counter pain medicines, to wearing a TMJ splint (bite guard for TMJ), or even surgery in some cases.
Bruxism Night Guard vs TMJ Mouth Guard
Bruxism and TMJ disorders share similar symptoms and they are both treated with a mouth guard. However, they are two different conditions, and the mouth guards used to treat bruxism is different from a TMJ splint.
Bruxism Night Guard
A dental night guard used to treat bruxism covers either the upper or lower teeth. It acts as a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth.
Bruxism night guards can be made from different materials and range from inexpensive over-the-counter options to custom fitted night guards that offer maximum comfort and protection. If you suffer from bruxism, using a night guard can prevent you from waking up with pain and headaches, as well as protect your teeth against long term damage.
Mouth Guard for TMJ
The mouth guards for TMJ disorders function differently from bruxism guards. They are always made of rigid acrylic material. Also called a TMJ splint, these TMJ mouth guards help to raise the bite and reposition the jaw in a position that helps relieve the patient of any symptoms and discomfort. Due to the precise nature of a TMJ splint, the dentist may need to make multiple adjustments in order to achieve the perfect position.
For patients suffering from TMJ disorders, we do NOT recommend ordering a night guard online. Instead, they should seek a solution from their dentist.