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Original Research

Open Access

Neural Correlates of Tooth Clenching in Patients with Bruxism and Temporomandibular Disorder–Related Pain

  • Theo J. M. Kluskens1,*,
  • Bernadette M. Jansma2
  • Amanda Kaas2
  • Vincent van de Ven2

1Department of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, The Netherlands

2Department of Cognitive Neuroscience Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience Maastricht University, Maastricht Brain Imaging Center (M-Bic), Maastricht, The Netherlands

DOI: 10.11607/ofph.3091 Vol.37,Issue 2,June 2023 pp.139-148

Submitted: 08 October 2021 Accepted: 18 October 2022

Published: 30 June 2023

*Corresponding Author(s): Theo J. M. Kluskens E-mail:


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.

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Theo J. M. Kluskens,Bernadette M. Jansma,Amanda Kaas,Vincent van de Ven. Neural Correlates of Tooth Clenching in Patients with Bruxism and Temporomandibular Disorder–Related Pain. Journal of Oral & Facial Pain and Headache. 2023. 37(2);139-148.


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