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The Link Between Bruxism and TMJ

The Link Between Bruxism and TMJ

Temporomandibular joint disorder, which is often referred to by the partial acronym TMJ, affects about 5-12% of the world’s population. 

If you have TMJ, you may experience symptoms such as a jaw that is:

You may also experience sensitive teeth and burning sensations in your mouth. Sometimes the pain from TMJ is so intense that it’s difficult to chew your food.

At South County Sleep Solutions in Newport Beach, California, our sleep specialist, Dana J. Rockey, DMD, diagnoses and treats TMJ disorder. He also diagnoses and treats the habit that underlies many cases of TMJ, a habit called bruxism.

Bruxism causes TMJ

If you have TMJ, you may also engage in a habit known as bruxism, which involves clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth. Up to 31% of women, men, and children in the United States engage in bruxism, usually unconsciously. If you grind or clench your teeth, in addition to TMJ, you may experience headaches or earaches, fractured teeth, and flattened molars.

You’re pretty sure that you don’t grind your teeth or clench your jaw during the day. After you learned about bruxism and its connection to TMJ, you made a conscious effort to keep your jaw relaxed and soft. But your conscious efforts could be undone by your subconscious while you sleep. 

Interrupted sleep may be the problem

Many people who engage in bruxism and who go on to develop TMJ grind their teeth or clench their jaw while they’re asleep. You probably aren’t aware of your bruxism if it happens while you sleep. However, if you sleep with a partner, they may hear or witness your bruxism.

Why do you grind your teeth while you sleep? It could be stress. It could also be a sleep breathing disorder known as sleep apnea. 

If you have sleep apnea, something cuts off the flow of oxygen through your airways while you sleep. You may be unconsciously grinding your teeth in order to wake yourself up to take a breath.

That means, while you’re supposed to be getting deep, restorative sleep, you’re actually stressing your jaw muscles all night long. No wonder your TM joint hurts and your jaw can’t function optimally. This interplay between bruxism, TMJ, and sleep apnea might also explain your daytime fatigue and brain fog.

Get help with teeth grinding

If you have TMJ and bruxism — with or without sleep apnea — you may benefit from an oral appliance that acts as a mouthguard while you sleep. The oral appliance separates your teeth with protective layers to keep them safe.

The oral appliance also moves your jaw forward so that you can’t grind your teeth or clench your jaw. The forward position of your jaw also keeps your airway open and prevents your tongue or other oral tissues from cutting off your oxygen while you sleep.

By treating your bruxism, you improve both your TMJ and your sleep. The effects on your quality of life are profound. You have less jaw pain, less fatigue, and more energy.

Find out if bruxism is behind your TMJ and get relief from your jaw pain and disability today. Give us a call at 949-558-0554 or use our online booking form.

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