Dental health can be complex. While much of the focus is rightfully on cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease, there are other conditions that can affect your health that you may not be aware of.

Dental health can be complex. While much of the focus is rightfully on cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease, there are other conditions that can affect your health that you may not be aware of. Many of the things we do on a daily basis are subconscious. Things like breathing and blinking would drive us insane to think about. It’s good that our body just takes care of it. However, there are some things that we may do subconsciously that could actually be causing us harm. Not too many conditions fall under that umbrella, but there are some that your dentist can see signs of during your next teeth cleaning visit.

Two of these conditions are technically separate, but they often occur together due to the behaviors involved. These conditions are temporomandibular joint disorders (known commonly as TMJ) and bruxism. TMJ and bruxism can cause real damage to the joints, your teeth, and can have secondary symptoms like chronic headaches.

If you have persistent jaw pain or your dentist alerts you to damage to your teeth unrelated to traditional cavities, you could have TMJ and bruxism much to your surprise. Here is what you need to know about these often-related conditions and how you can treat them.


TMJ is a very common condition that affects millions of people every year. The symptoms of it generally present in the sides of the face along the jaw line. Typically, there is pain or tenderness in one or both of joints where the jaw meets the top half of the skull close to your ears. It’s definitely time to speak to your dentist if you’re having trouble opening and closing your mouth. What can happen is the jaw can lock into place if you open your mouth too wide, leading to a painful predicament.

In most cases, the cause of this disorder is unknown. But, TMJ can be caused by disk erosion or misalignment, arthritis, or a traumatic injury that knocks the hinge out of place. Another risk factor is long-term grinding or clenching of your teeth, which you may not even know you’re doing. Which leads us to the other condition we’re spotlighting here.


Bruxism is the excessive grinding of your teeth unrelated to normal behaviors like talking and eating. It can eventually lead to the development of TMJ. Bruxism can be identified by a popping sound in the jaw, tight jaw muscles, headaches, and a grinding sound while you sleep. Because most of the teeth grinding associated with bruxism happens while you sleep, you generally aren’t aware of it until a partner alerts you to the sound or your dentist sees visible evidence of your teeth being worn down during a cleaning. You may even develop cavities as a result of grinding your teeth. This can cause the sensitivity that you’re experiencing.

How tension plays a part

While there are a variety of conditions that can cause bruxism and TMJ, including certain medications in rare cases, they are generally related to tension. In TMJ that develops as a result of bruxism, it’s generally noted that there are high levels of stress and anxiety present as well. That’s because when we’re stressed, we tend to clench our jaws. This clenching can lead to teeth grinding. All of these actions are subconscious. Posture plays a role as well. Poor posture can cause the jaw to clench.

What are the risks?

Long-term bruxism and TMJ can cause damage to your mouth and tendons. If the teeth become ground down enough, you’ll need fillings and crowns in order to give them back their shape and reduce pain. TMJ brings even more complications. Long term untreated TMJ may eventually end up requiring surgery in order to loosen the joint.

Treating these conditions

Most likely your dentist will recommend a night guard to keep you from grinding your teeth while you sleep. Additionally, the underlying reason for your tension will need to be addressed. Stress will need to be reduced and a mindfulness approach to relaxing your jaw during the day is necessary in order to make a recovery. Medications like an anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxer may be prescribed for advanced TMJ.


Many people who have worn their teeth down due to bruxism may not even know it’s happening. However, if you’re noticing increased sensitivity to cold and sweets, you should bring it up to your dentist. Additionally, TMJ can cause serious problems with soreness and headaches. During a routine cleaning, your dentist can find signs of both of these conditions. If you’re suffering from these symptoms or you haven’t had a teeth cleaning lately, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Dr. Gharibian and the team at Dental Center of Redondo Beach are here to provide you with the dental care you need so you can live a life free of tension related pain. Don’t wait until the problem gets worse.