While bruxism, or teeth grinding, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) are separate issues, they can certainly be related. If you've already been diagnosed with TMJ, you could be at risk for bruxism. Read on to learn how the two disorders relate to one another and how to treat them.
There are two types of TMJ disorders: primary and secondary. If you have primary TMJ, that means that you have anatomic problems such as a deep overbite or a recessed chin. Secondary TMJ is caused by external factors such as stress or clenching your teeth. If you don't know if you have primary or secondary TMJ, you may find yourself with the proverbial "chicken or the egg" question: Is TMJ causing bruxism or is bruxism causing your TMJ? To get this answer, you should ask your dentist to address any orthodontic and orthognathic issues.
If you've already had orthodontic treatment and your teeth are in proper alignment, then it's a safe bet that you have secondary TMJ, which is caused because you grind your teeth.
If you have been diagnosed with malocclusions and haven't received orthodontic treatment, then you probably have primary TMJ, and your bruxism is just another side effect.
Secondary TMJ is usually easier to treat because once you eliminate the stressor or external cause that's causing you to grind your teeth, your muscles will learn to relax on their own and your TMJ will go away. To treat secondary TMJ, you should ask your dentist for a mouthguard. While you may be aware of the times that you clench your jaw, many people do it subconsciously when they're asleep. The mouthguard will not only protect your molars from wearing down, but it will train your jaw muscles to relax. After a time, you may not need to wear the mouthguard at all.
Primary TMJ may be a little more intense to treat because you may need to undergo orthodontic and orthognathic procedures for your jaws to be in proper alignment. In the meantime, a dentist can still give you a mouthguard to relieve your bruxism. A custom mouthguard is great because it is often more comfortable to wear than the boil-and-bite mouthguards from the grocery store. Also, if you have sleep apnea or other jaw issues that make it hard to breathe, you'll want to get a custom mouthguard for optimal oxygen flow.
Along with a mouthguard, your dentist may recommend physiotherapy so that you can eliminate your TMJ's myospams and trigger points. Once your dentist and physiotherapist is able to stabilize your bruxism and any other pain, then they may ask you to consider braces and/or surgery to fix the problem. Otherwise, you'll have to keep wearing your mouthguard and doing exercises to keep the bruxism at bay.
For more information, contact Claremont Dental Institute or a similar location.