bruxism and tmj

Bruxism and TMJ Disorder

Bruxism and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are related in numerous ways. For starters, both adversely affect oral health and the correct functioning of the mouth. More profoundly, it has even been speculated that bruxism may play a role in the development of TMJ disorders. Backing up such claims, results from numerous studies do indeed point to the existence of a link between bruxism and TMJ disorders. In fact, one study found that of 212 patients with TMJ disorders, 87.5% also had bruxism. For more information, you can read blogs about bruxism at

Irrespective of how compelling such findings appear, it’s, nevertheless, important to emphasize that the exact nature of the relationship remains unclear. That said, a greater degree of clarity is perhaps beginning to emerge. For example, a comprehensive literature review determined that there was no causal link between the 2 conditions.


While the literature review failed to establish a causal link, some specialists continue to insist that bruxism does, in fact, play a role in the development of TMJ disorders. Proponents of this viewpoint, argue that the aggregate force of bruxism’s physical impact can, over time, contribute to jaw misalignment.

Indeed, physical impact is accepted as a cause of TMJ disorders. As, incidentally, are arthritis and disk misalignment or erosion. However, in many other cases, it can actually prove somewhat tricky to identify the exact cause of TMJ disorders. Such ambiguity, somewhat fittingly, echoes our tenuous understanding of the causes of bruxism. At present, our best guess is that bruxism is the product of complex interplay between various genetic, physical, and psychological factors.


In keeping with the overall trend, the 2 conditions share a remarkable number of symptoms. Indeed, anyone of jaw pain, facial pain, jaw locking, or ear pain can be attributed to either condition.

Separating the Conditions

bruxism and tmjWhile they may share many characteristics in common, it’s important to clarify that bruxism and TMJ disorders are indeed separate complaints. On the one hand, bruxism refers to the abnormal grinding or clenching of teeth. While, on the other hand, TMJ disorders involve the compromised functioning of the jaw’s muscles and joints.


Admittedly, on a superficial level, the respective treatment methods for both conditions do appear quite similar. Indeed, in both cases, mouthguards are used to correct the underlying issues. However, looks can be deceiving, and on a functional level, the treatment methods are actually fundamentally different.

With respect to bruxism treatment, the mouthguard exclusively serves as a protective barrier between the teeth. As such, truth be told, this device bears little functional resemblance to a TMJ disorder mouthguard. Commonly referred to as a splint, this very different mouthguard, in fact, works to reposition a patient’s jaw and to raise their bite.

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