Aims: To measure brain activity in patients with bruxism and temporomandibular disorder (TMD)-related pain in comparison to controls using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and to investigate whether modulations in jaw clenching led to different pain reports and/or changes in neural activity in motor and pain processing areas within and between both groups.
Methods: A total of 40 participants (21 patients with bruxism and TMD-related pain and 19 healthy controls) performed a tooth-clenching task while lying inside a 3T MRI scanner. Participants were instructed to mildly or strongly clench their teeth for brief periods of 12 seconds and to subsequently rate their clenching intensity and pain experience after each clenching period.
Results: Patients reported significantly more pain during strong clenching compared to mild clenching. Further results showed significant differences between patients and controls in activity in areas of brain networks commonly associated with pain processing, which were also correlated with reported pain intensity. There was no evidence for differences in activity in motor-related areas between groups, which contrasts with findings of previous research.
Conclusions: Brain activity in patients with bruxism and TMD-related pain is correlated more with pain processing than with motoric differences.