Jaw Pain: Is It TMD/TMJ or Bruxism?
Jaw pain is hard to ignore. It is persistent. It can be inconvenient at best and excruciating at its worst. Two of the most common causes of jaw pain are temporomandibular joint disorders and bruxism.
What Is TMD/TMJ?
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) refers to the jaw joints that connect your jawbone to your skull. You have two TMJs, one on each side of your face. TMD is when there is dysfunction, swelling, abscess, or stress in the temporomandibular joint. Sometimes TMD and TMJ are used interchangeably.
Causes of TMD
TMJ dysfunction can be caused by a combination of factors, so it can be hard to identify exactly what is causing the problem. Some of the most common factors include genetics, a traumatic jaw injury, or arthritis. TMJ can be caused or intensified by clenching or grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism.
Signs of TMJ
If you are experiencing jaw pain, you might be wondering if TMJ is the cause of all your problems. The following symptoms often point to TMJ:
- Aching pain in or around your ear.
- Difficulty chewing.
- Painful chewing.
- Facial aches.
- Difficulty opening or closing your mouth.
- Jaw pain.
Experiencing one or more of these symptoms may indicate that you have TMJ and should discuss treatment options with Dr. Radkey.
What Is Bruxism?
Bruxism is a condition where you grind, gnash, or clench your teeth. This can be conscious or unconscious and can occur in your sleep. Bruxism can affect adults and children. Children often grow out of grinding their teeth on their own, but there are treatment options available for both children and adults.
Left unchecked, bruxism can cause damage to your teeth and should be addressed by a medical professional.
Causes of Bruxism
Like TMJ, the exact cause of bruxism is unknown. Most experts suspect that there is a combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors. Stress, anxiety, anger, or tension are believed to make bruxism worse.
Signs of Bruxism
Some people with bruxism experience no symptoms, and have no idea they even have it because they grind their teeth in their sleep. However, there are signs you should look out for. The signs of bruxism include:
- Teeth grinding.
- Teeth clenching.
- Damaged teeth.
- Tooth pain.
- Tooth sensitivity.
- Tired jaw muscles.
- Locked jaw.
- Jaw, neck, or face pain.
- Dull headache.
- Damage from chewing on the inside of your cheek.
- Sleep disruption.
The pain caused by bruxism only gets worse over time, so it’s important to address your symptoms early on.
Can Bruxism Cause TMD/TMJ?
Both bruxism and TMD result in jaw and face pain. Bruxism puts pressure on your face muscles and other tissues, which can cause damage to your temporomandibular joint and cause or worsen TMJ dysfunction. Bruxism is not the primary cause of TMJ, but it can be a factor in your jaw pain.
Your Dentist Can Help with Jaw Pain
There are many causes of jaw pain, and if you have one symptom, you probably have others as well. Jaw pain usually gets worse without treatment, but without an obvious cause, it can seem hard to get help or relief.
Our own Dr. Radkey might be able to help give you jaw pain relief. Dentists are experts in how the jaw functions, so they can offer a few different treatment options like custom dental appliances, hot or cold therapy, or relaxation techniques.
Jaw pain is unpleasant, but we can help! Though bruxism and TMD are common ailments, each patient is unique. Our team at Magnolia Dental will help create a one-of-a-kind dental plan to address your concerns. Contact us today to ask about our jaw pain treatments!