Bruxism and TMJ Disorder: What is the difference?

TMJ RichmondBruxism and TMJ disorder may be related in some cases, but the two conditions are distinct from each other. Bruxism specifically refers to a pattern of grinding or clenching the teeth, often unconsciously. You may feel some strain in your jaw or notice unusual wear and tear on your teeth due to bruxism. TMJ disorder, in contrast, refers to a collection of conditions related to malfunctioning components of the jaw. TMJ disorder often manifests in symptoms such as jaw pain and clicking, locking or popping in the jaw. Bruxism may also be a symptom of a TMJ disorder.

If you’ve experiencing vague symptoms that could be either bruxism or a TMJ disorder, an oral surgeon can diagnose which of the two problems you have and guide you toward the most appropriate and effective treatment plan for your case. These specialists have extensive knowledge and experience with the various structures of the jaw – bones, muscles and tendons – that can contribute to a TMJ disorder or be affected by bruxism.

The oral surgeon will perform a clinical exam of your facial structures and take x-rays to get an interior view of the jaw’s structure. The information gained from these sources will inform the diagnosis and the treatment plan.

Bruxism alone may not require surgery. Patients often get relief from the condition by wearing a custom-made night guard that separates the teeth while the patient is asleep. Bruxism is often exacerbated by stress, so stress management techniques may also reduce your symptoms.

Depending on the issue causing the TMJ disorder, surgery may not be indicated for this condition either. Muscle strain can often cause a TMJ disorder, in which case jaw exercises can be helpful. An appliance may also help to hold the jaw in the proper position to eliminate TMJ symptoms, as well.

However, if a structural defect is causing the TMJ disorder, the patient may need to have surgery to correct the defect. Your surgeon will discuss the recommended treatment plan with you.

Bruxism and TMJ disorder can have similar symptoms and may be related to each other, but it’s important to be evaluated by a specialist to determine what is causing your specific issue so that you can get the right treatment. Call our office at Commonwealth Oral & Facial Surgery to schedule an evaluation.

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