What’s the Difference Between Bruxism and TMJ?

For many people, understanding the difference between bruxism and TMJ can be confusing, as they can have similar symptoms. However, bruxism and TMJ are very different.

  • Bruxism is a condition where people are grinding and clenching their teeth, mostly at night
  • TMJ is a disorder of the jaw joint that can lead to more serious symptoms

In this article, our dentists at Country Dental will help clarify the difference between bruxism and TMJ, and give a brief overview of how each condition can be treated.

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is the medical term used to describe the condition where people involuntarily grind or clench their teeth. Most often, bruxism occurs while the person is sleeping.

Left untreated, bruxism can lead to permanent damages to the teeth and include:

  • Cracked or fractured teeth
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Damage to fillings or other dental work
  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches
  • Potential hearing loss

A mouth guard for Bruxism is the most common way this condition is treated. A bruxism mouth guard is worn while sleeping and helps to relax the jaw muscles and prevent the wearer from clenching and grinding their teeth at night.

What is TMJ?

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Located on each side of your face, the Temporomandibular joint holds the upper and lower part of your jaw together, allowing smooth movement of the opening and closing of the jaw. People who suffer from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ disorder) will experience pain on this joint and may even find it difficult to move their jaw.

TMJ can also lead to:

  • Swelling in the jaw
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Pain in the neck, face, shoulders (particularly when yawning and chewing)

Temporomandibular joint disorders can develop as a result of untreated bruxism and can also be caused by jaw injuries (ex. whiplash, force trauma), arthritis, and dislocation of the disc that acts as a cushion within the jaw joint.

TMJ is also commonly treated with a mouth guard but a mouth guard for TMJ has a much different design and function than a mouth guard for bruxism. A TMJ mouth guard is made of a very rigid acrylic material that acts as a split to raise the bite and reposition the jaw. This helps to relieve TMJ symptoms and discomfort.

To learn more about mouth guards, visit our page entitled Night Guards for TMJ and Bruxism.

About Country Dental

Country Dental offers residents of Southern Ontario three convenient locations including in Toronto, Cambridge, and Fergus. We offer complete dental care for the family including dental exams, kids dental services and dental emergency services.

Please note that while this article contains useful information about the difference between bruxism and TMJ, only a dentist can accurately assess and diagnose bruxism and TMJ. If you suffer from any of the symptoms listed on this page please visit one of our local dental offices immediately.

To make an appointment with a Country Dental dentist to discuss any jaw discomfort you are experiencing, please call one of our Greater Toronto Area dental offices including:

Toronto:         416-335-7377

Cambridge:    519-620-7474

Fergus:            519-787-7878


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