Bruxism, TMJ, and Pain

Bruxism, TMJ, and Pain | Ken Barney, DDSFrequent or chronic pain of any sort is a frustrating problem to have. When that pain localizes in the face and head area, it may take some time to reach an accurate conclusion about the cause. Often, resolution of the problem at hand cannot be reached until a proper diagnosis has been made. The lack of information and understanding related to the jaw and its effect on the face and neck can sometimes be an obstacle in attaining that diagnosis. Here, we want to connect the dots so you can obtain the treatment you need to improve comfort.

Habit or Condition?

There are two factors that may be involved in chronic facial and head pain (including migraines). One is TMJ, and one is bruxism. It is not uncommon to confuse the two or to perceive them as the same thing. The fact is TMJ disorder and bruxism share similar symptoms. However, there are also identifying characteristics that can help us differentiate the two:

  • Bruxism is a habit that many people don’t know they are doing. This is because bruxism, which is clenching the jaw and grinding the teeth, often goes on when we’re sleeping. We cannot know that we are clenching and grinding unless someone tells us. Bruxism often relates to stress levels. Left unattended, this habit can lead to tooth damage. It can also lead to or exacerbate the symptoms of TMJ disorder.
  • TMJ disorder is a condition that maybe caused by a persistent bruxism habit. The altered functionality of the TMJs, or temporomandibular joints, may also result from poor bite alignment, poorly fitting dental restorations, and other factors.

Long-Term Gain Stems from Proper Treatment

Because TMJ disorder and bruxism are not the same things, it is necessary to pay close attention to the signs and symptoms that can help us understand what is happening in the mouth.  Dr. Barney’s educational background in neuromuscular dentistry affords him the insights into the jaw to best help our patients obtain the answers they need.

The way that bruxism and TMJ disorder are treated may be similar if the severity of dysfunction in the jaw is minor. The objective in such instances is to reduce the amount of stress that is inflicted on the jaw and its surrounding musculature. This can be achieved with a mouthguard that fits over teeth. Mouthguards are worn when you sleep. Moderate to severe TMJ need a more tailored approach to reduce symptoms. Neuromuscular dentistry techniques prove highly beneficial in resolving the underlying cause of TMJ disorder.

Learn more about our approach to TMJ disorder. Contact our Hedgesville office at (304) 754-8803.

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