UPDATE: For detailed information and practical steps to help you beat TMJ disorder naturally, take a look at TMJ No More.
Teeth grinding, known as Bruxism and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders often are used interchangeably, although there is a stark difference between the two.
As both can present due to a myriad of complicated underlying issues, it is important to discuss each separately.
Mutually, these disorders can present in a number of ways, and therefore, it often becomes challenging to pinpoint an exact cause.
The road to relief can be windy and sometimes it might seem as though there is fork after fork in the road. If you suffer from Bruxism and/or TMJ disorders, this guide should help you on your journey to recovery.
We'll take a look today at the difference between TMJ and Bruxism.
There is a correlative relationship between the two disorders; however only Bruxism has a unilateral causational effect as it can sometimes causes and exacerbate TMJ symptoms. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry.
You’re not alone.
TMJ disorder/syndrome and the jaw
The ways in which TMJ develops is vast, making the manifestation of the disorder an ever-changing surfeit of symptoms.
Due to the convergence of so many underlying connections and with more discoveries being made, medical specialists are starting to use new terms like "TMJ Dysfunction” and “TMJ Disorder”.
Because of the multitudinous number of symptoms comprising it, some medical researchers, specialists, and patients alike commonly refer to it in a plural blanketed sense “TMJ syndromes”. For the purpose of this article, the singular version of the term, TMJ syndrome will be used.
The temporomadibular joint joins the temporal bone of the skull with that of the mandibular or jawbone.
It plays an important role, as it is responsible for opening and closing the mouth. Described as the most complicated join in the human body, it is able to translate (slide) and rotate.
With TMJ syndrome, the cartilage that provides a buffer between the two bones can become compromised, damaged, or destroyed.
The syndrome is characterized by pain at the juncture between the skull and jaw, in conjunction with an unfavorable clicking or popping sound.
In addition to the clicking and popping, a combination of pain is felt.
There, an array of physical ailments exists, resulting in inflammation, subluxation, and dislocation.
Pain often coincides with the undesirable sounds that a sufferer hears. They can be heard and felt in front of and inside the ear.
Varying degrees of headaches may develop alongside the numerous other symptoms.
From facial pain to jaw pain, earaches, and severe headaches, TMJ syndrome symptoms are likely to be responsible.
Teeth grinding has been discovered as one of the major causes of TMJ syndrome.
Other causes of TMJ syndrome include teeth clenching, dental misalignment, mislaid orthodontics, and trauma to the jaw, vigorous chewing, emotional stress, and/or improper jaw alignment. It is not necessary to have all these symptoms to suffer from TMJ syndrome.
As the detrimental effects begin to take place, the temporomandibular joint is left to suffer the brunt of it.
Night grinding habits could turn into full-blown TMJ syndrome if left untreated.
The TMJ syndrome pandemic affects approximately 30% of Americans. It is not limited to the United States alone. As 60 million Americans suffer, TMJ syndrome reaches the far corners of the world.
It doesn’t discriminate, affecting people of any age, gender and race.
So what is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding and sometimes includes clenching of the teeth.
It is a paradoxical disorder observed particularly at night; however, it affects some people during the day.
Much like TMJ syndrome, there has been much speculation into Bruxism’s underlying cause.
What is known is that it is a behavior that dental anatomy, stress, diet, and pharmacology are strong risk factors.
Bruxism can be a serious condition.
For individuals who are chronic teeth grinders, there are many adverse affects that can occur, including headaches, ear pain, and facial pain.
These sound identical to symptoms of TMJ syndrome as we see now why the two are often erroneously used interchangeably.
Teeth cracking, teeth flattening, decay, receding gums, and the wearing down of the teeth are a few of Bruxism specific symptoms.
TMJ syndrome and Bruxism both share; however, more common symptoms like joint pain, sleep disturbances and insomnia.
When a chronic bruxer grinds their teeth, it’s like an unconscious file wildling away the surface of the teeth. If treatment is not sought, wear facets on the teeth results.
Consequently, vital tissue becomes exposed and severe pain is felt.
The teeth become successively more sensitive over time and delicate nerves can become exposed after the teeth have been relentlessly worn down.
Both Bruxism and TMJ syndrome can be treated with night guards. A night guard is worn nightly to protect the upper and lower teeth, preventing further grinding.
Please note, there are very specific things to take into account before running out to the local pharmacy to pick one up or when choosing one online.
For most people who suffer from teeth grinding, this is an appropriate measure to take, but if an individual suffers from the TMJ syndrome symptom of dental misalignment, a more specific type of night guard is necessary.
In those cases, it is necessary to have an acrylic night guard, often called a splint that is custom fit by a dental or orthodontic specialist.
These customized night guards can become rather involved, requiring several adjustments as it’s purpose is to raise the bite and reposition the jaw when its worn at night.
It is recommended to always consult a medical professional before choosing a night guard to ensure there aren’t more serious problems to be addressed.
There are many similarities between TMJ syndrome and Bruxism.
Both cause those who suffer from each disorder a multitude of painful symptoms. Sometimes patients mistake their symptoms and attempt to address the wrong disorder.
Checking with your dental specialist or orthodontists is key to treating the correct disorder.
Another option is to consult an orthopod who is a holistic doctor, specializing in the treatment of the musculoskeletal system.
Regardless of which route you take, these specialists will be able to address the correct disorder, provide treatment and educate you on some necessary preventative measures to take.
Getting a thorough checkup of your dental anatomy while placing extra emphasis on searching for misalignment of the jaw and teeth are additional proactive steps.
Lastly, it is imperative that you tackle any problems you may face with pharmacology.
This includes taking inventory of all medication you may take such as narcotics. In addition, take care to consume sugar and coffee in moderation.
Certain stimulant drugs like cocaine have dramatic affects on the nervous system, and are known to cause unintentional teeth grinding. Be cautious of any psychobiological agents and if you smoke, quit.
Understanding the differences between TMJ syndrome and Bruxism is essential.
Recognize that sometimes they go hand in hand, but often present separately. Make sure to contact a medical professional, rather than attempting to diagnose yourself.
The road to relief can be an overwhelming one filled with confusion, potholes and sometimes perceived insurmountable mountains.
For more information and practical steps to help you beat Bruxism and TMJ disorder, take a look at TMJ No More.