Teeth grinding and teeth clenching can lead to TMJ disorder. The additional pressure and stress on the jaw during these constant activities can cause wear-and-tear to the temporo-mandibular joint itself. This then leads to swelling, inflammation, joint deterioration, and pain which are the hallmarks of TMJ conditions. Therefore, if these symptoms are present, it raises the risk for TMJ.
Clenching the jaw can be the result of stress, a neurologic movement disorder, or simply a learned habit. In all three, it is not a conscious act, but essentially involuntary. You likely may not even know you do it until a friend or family member points it out. Because of these causes, the focus of treatment may be directed at relieving stress or changing a learned behavior. Movement disorders, which are benign neurologic conditions, involving jaw movements and teeth clenching are quite rare. These are treated differently, usually with medications.
Grinding the teeth likewise can be involuntary and a result of emotional stress. Bruxism, a disorder of teeth grinding in sleep, is an actual sleep movement disorder. Sleep movement disorders also worsen with stress. While behavior treatment for emotional stress is used for teeth grinding as well, bruxism may require medication. In addition to causing TMJ, it also results in loss of tooth enamel.
Both symptoms lead to problems with the jaw when present chronically. If other TMJ symptoms are present, treating jaw clenching and teeth grinding can be dramatically beneficial. If these are the only complaints, care still may be employed as a preventative measure.
Other TMJ Symptoms: