Bruxism & TMJ Dysfunction Therapy
Patients who suffer from chronic teeth grinding and clenching, bruxism, or painful or impeded jaw movement, TMJ dysfunction, may not seem to have much in common. However, these patients can often benefit from the same treatments. On this page, you’ll find information about these two oral health concerns, their warning signs, and potential treatment methods. If you or a loved one suffers from bruxism or TMJ dysfunction, Drew Beaty, DDS and his dedicated Federal Way dentistry team are here to help. We offer oral appliance therapy and other treatment options to keep you smiling. Call our office to schedule a consultation today.
Bruxism is the technical term for unconscious teeth grinding and clenching. Many patients grind and clench teeth at times of stress, but bruxism sufferers experience chronic, unconscious teeth grinding and clenching. While this may not seem like a significant issue, left untreated bruxism can cause serious tooth damage, chips, cracks, and excessive enamel wear. Patients typically grind or clench their teeth during sleep, so it’s difficult to know you’re experiencing bruxism unless it’s observed by someone else. Our team will look for warning signs of the oral health condition on your teeth, but please let us know right away if a friend, family member, or significant other informs you that they have noticed you grinding or clenching your teeth during sleep.
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ) are small, connective tissues that attach the jaw to the skull bone. When they are damaged or strained, the result is that patients have difficulty opening and closing the mouth to speak, chew, yawn, or smile. For some this dysfunction will simply cause discomfort. For others, TMJ dysfunction can lead to complete jaw immobility. Let our team know right away if you experience any of these common warning signs of TMJ dysfunction:
- Jaw pain – can be a dull ache or sharp pain during movement
- Radiating head, neck, and back pain
- Grinding or popping sound when opening the mouth
- Difficulty opening the mouth or complete immobility (lock jaw)
- Swelling or inflammation in the jaw
While TMJ dysfunction and bruxism are not necessary linked, they can often be treated with the same solution – a custom crafted mouthguard. For bruxism sufferers that guard may be little more than a thin plastic sheath that fits over teeth to place a protective barrier and avoid dental wear and chips. Patients with TMJ dysfunction will need a more advanced guard. These oral appliances are often called occlusal splints, and they position the jaw in its ideal resting place and hold it there during sleep. Over time, this reduces unconscious movement that may strain the fragile TMJ, and many patients even achieve full repair after using a mouthguard that can often permanently reposition the jaw.
Other Treatments for TMJ & Bruxism
In addition to mouthguards, we may recommend a variety of other treatments for bruxism and TMJ dysfunction including:
- Stress relief exercises that can help both TMJ and bruxism sufferers by relieving undo strain on the jaw
- Stretching exercises to reposition the jaw in its ideal resting place
- Orthodontic treatment to properly align the smile and prevent unconscious teeth grinding and clenching and strain on the jaw joints leading to TMJ dysfunction