Many oral health issues that share similar characteristics can lead patients to seek care from an oral surgeon, and two of these conditions are bruxism and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Both can cause discomfort for patients, but that discomfort may originate from different sources.
TMJ disorders and bruxism are separate issues. TMJ disorders encompass a collection of problems that can develop in any of the jaw’s many components, including the bones, tendons and muscles. For example, damage to the disc in the jaw can cause discomfort or make the jaw lock in place. Muscular strain in the area of the jaw can also contribute to a TMJ disorder, which may be marked by clicking or popping sounds in the jaw in addition to discomfort.
Bruxism, on the other hand, occurs when the patient is grinding or clenching the teeth, often unconsciously so or during sleep. This leads to excess wear and tear on the teeth and it can also cause pain and stiffness in the jaw.
While bruxism and TMJ are two distinct disorders, the conditions can have some overlap and influence on each other. For example, bruxism can be caused by a TMJ disorder. Similarly, bruxism can exacerbate TMJ-related symptoms.
With both bruxism and TMJ disorders, the patient is likely to attempt to get symptom relief from more conservative measures before an oral surgeon would recommend an invasive procedure to correct the underlying
If you’re experiencing symptoms that could indicate either bruxism or a TMJ disorder, it’s essential to be evaluated by a qualified dental professional. Such an exam can pinpoint the cause of your specific symptoms and indicate the most appropriate treatment for your case.
Surgery may be suggested for patients who do not see improvement in their symptoms with treatments such as mouthguards or physical therapy. It may be necessary to correct a defect in the jaw in order to eliminate the underlying disorder. Discuss these options thoroughly with your surgeon so that you can make an informed decision about your treatment.