How Can Bruxism Cause TMJ Disorder? Written By: Dr. Ankita Shah, January 2023
Bruxism is a condition characterised by the unconscious grinding and clenching of teeth that can occur during both wakefulness and sleep. Bruxism can lead to a variety of problems, including jaw (TMJ) disorders, headaches, worn out teeth, and many more. In some cases, bruxism can also lead to a more severe condition known as temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
To gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between bruxism and TMD, it is necessary to first learn about TMJ and TMD. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a type of joint that can adapt to changes in posture and tooth position. The position of the condyle, which is the rounded end of the lower jawbone, and the disc in the joint are influenced by the body's posture and the way the upper and lower teeth fit together (known as the intercuspal position). Changes in body posture or the way the teeth bite can affect the position of the TMJ, leading to TMJ disorder.
Temporomandibular disorders, commonly known as TMD, refer to a group of disorders affecting the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. This disorder often involves the whole body. It is not only influenced by the body alignment and posture but also hormonal changes, and diet. Therefore, a comprehensive assessment and a holistic treatment of TMD must take into account all relevant factors, including the presence of bruxism.
The Connection Between Bruxism And TMJ:
How Can Bruxism Lead To TMJ Disorder?
Bruxism and its underlying causes can contribute to the development of TMJ disorder (TMD) in multiple ways.
The repeated forceful clenching and grinding motions can cause significant stress on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint that connects the jaw to the skull. It is similar to our knee joint and over time, this excessive pressure can cause damage to the joint and the surrounding muscles, leading to pain, inflammation, and other symptoms associated with TMD.
Furthermore, the position of the TMJ is influenced by various factors, including neck and hip alignment, tooth position, and occlusion (the way the upper and lower teeth come together). All these factors can affect bruxism, altering the position and alignment of the jaw joint and muscles. This can subsequently place additional stress on the TMJ. The muscle tension associated with bruxism can further contribute to TMJ dysfunction.
Also, people who experience airway obstruction like in mouth breathing, snoring or sleep apnea may be more likely to develop bruxism. Airway obstruction can be caused by narrowed or blocked airways that prevent the air from properly moving in and out. So, the person's body compensates and tries to open their airway by bringing the lower jaw forward. Since the muscles are stretched to a position where no teeth contact is present, one starts clenching and grinding their teeth or shifting their jaw. This can put excessive pressure on the TMJ, which can then lead to TMJ disorder or worsen existing TMJ problems.
Ear congestion, the feeling of fullness in the ears, can also indirectly contribute to the development of bruxism and TMJ disorder. The discomfort and pain associated with ear congestion can cause individuals to clench their teeth or grind their teeth as a way of relieving the discomfort, which can place additional stress on the TMJ and exacerbate symptoms of TMJ disorder.
So, what happens if you leave bruxism untreated for too long? Let’s take a look.
How Does Untreated Bruxism Affect TMJ?
When you leave bruxism untreated for too long, the constant clenching and grinding will wear down your teeth' enamel, making them more prone to fractures. The degradation of teeth will change the way your teeth fit together, causing malocclusion, a misaligned bite. This could then negatively affect the jaw joint, causing TMJ disorder.
Will Treating Bruxism Reduce The Risk of TMJ Disorder?
This can be achieved through various treatments, such as GNM Orthotics (splints or mouthguards), physiotherapy and exercise, diet and stress management techniques, and teeth alignment. It is important to work with a qualified healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on your individual needs and circumstances.
What Measures Can You Take To Prevent Bruxism?
In order to receive personalised guidelines for treating and preventing bruxism, we strongly recommend connecting with a GNM TMJ doctor who can properly assess your condition. Meanwhile, we have provided a list of general precautions that TMJ Experts generally suggest for grinding teeth and jaw pain. However, please keep in mind that every patient's case is unique, and it's crucial to consult with a specialist to receive tailored precautions that best fit your condition.
Mouthguard: A specialist may recommend a mouthguard to prevent teeth from grinding at night. These are flexible mouthguards custom-made from plastic to fit your specific needs. However, this will not help correct bruxism or TMJ Pain, but it can only help protect your teeth from further attrition and wear.
Splint: A splint is a removable dental appliance that covers several or all of your teeth. This splint may look like teeth or splints that will be used on your upper jaw. However, you have to understand that this will not help correct bruxism or TMJ Pain but is only a precautionary measure.
GNM Orthotics: The orthotic appliances are designed to implement both gnathologic and neuromuscular principles utilizing TENS and Jaw Tracking machines. Comparing the GNM approach to orthotic design based solely on external visual features would be insufficient, as there are numerous physiologic components inherent to these approaches that are critical to achieving optimal muscle balance. GNM Orthotics offers relief from jaw pain from clenching teeth. It can also aid in the improvement of jaw function.
Taking steps to address bruxism and its underlying causes can significantly decrease the likelihood of developing TMJ disorder. It's important to act quickly to prevent any potential negative impact on your quality of life. If you're experiencing symptoms, we invite you to schedule an appointment with us to receive the care you need and improve your daily well-being.
If you are experiencing symptoms of bruxism or TMJ disorder, it's important to consult with a TMJ expert. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that best fits your needs. Based on your diagnosis, the expert may suggest one of the following treatment options:
Phase 1 Treatments:
GNM Dentistry (GNM Orthotics)
Phase 2 Treatment:
Full Mouth Rehabilitation
If you're struggling with Bruxism or TMD, a reputed TMJ professional can help you identify the root cause of your condition. With the guidance of our TMJ expert at the TMJ, Tongue Tie, and Sleep Institute, you can receive the expert treatment you need to alleviate your symptoms.
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