Choosing a TMJ Disorder Mouth Guard:
Once you’ve been diagnosed with a TMJ Disorder, the next question is: “What should I do to treat my TMD?”
Experts agree that it is best to treat jaw disorders with minimally invasive procedures, avoiding surgery whenever possible.
Often, the first step in treatment involves a mouth splint. You are probably familiar with what a splint is, as they are widely used for sports and some medical conditions such as sleep apnea. TMD dentists may refer to mouth splints in a number of different ways including “mouth guard,” “bite plate,” “bite appliance,” “mouthpiece,” “orthotic,” or “night guard,” No matter how they refer to it, they are still talking about a device that will place your jaw in the correct position and prevent painful pressure and additional damage to the TMJ. There are many types of guards and some that we will talk about like the Pro Teeth Guard are used mainly to protect the teeth from grinding, particularly at night. This can help alleviate muscle tension at night and may decrease TMJ pain in some cases. However, for many instances of TMJ disorders, dentists with specialized training in will assess the issues leading to the disorder before recommending and fitting a mouth guard that is designed to treat the direct cause of your TMJ disorder symptoms. These guards fall under the category of an oral orthotic and have a higher rate of improvement.
There are many different options that a TMD dentist will consider when recommending and fitting a device and it is very important to have a professional assessment as a poorly fitted device may cause additional damage to the TMJ and aggravate the TMJ disorder.
First, let’s discuss your jaw’s condition.
Why Does My Jaw Hurt?
Your jaw pain (and the many other conditions that result from TMJ Disorder) may be the result of the following:
Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth together during the day, or clench or grind them at night (sleep bruxism).
Malocclusion of teeth: “Occlusion” refers to the alignment of teeth and the way that the upper and lower teeth fit together (bite). The upper teeth should fit slightly over the lower teeth. The points of the molars should fit the grooves of the opposite molar. If you have “malocclusion,” your bite does not fit properly, which can cause jaw damage, muscle tension and musculoskeletal pain.
Prognathism: This refers to a protruding jaw. It is also called an extended chin or Habsburg jaw.
Hyperactive muscles: 90% of the pain in the body actually originates in the muscles. When those are forces to function in a way that they cannot relax, the result is a buildup of lactic acid and other metabolic waste and that if generally the source of the pain.
What Kind of Mouth Guard is Right for Me?
There are many types of mouth guards that are recommended to treat different causes of a TMJ disorder. Just as a splint for a sprained ankle will hold it in place and ensure that the muscles retrain themselves to sit in the right position, a mouth guard or splint will help to align the jaw to relieve symptoms of TMJ.
Splints generally work two achieve one of three goals protect the teeth, stabilize the jaw or reposition the jaw:
Dental Night Guards: These protective dental guards are made of hard, soft or two materials of different hardness. The primary purpose of these is to alleviate night time bruxism or teeth grinding that occurs while you sleep. While this is more common and often an early sign that TMJ may occur, these guards are recommended for protection of the teether and reducing the impact of night grinding on the temporomandibular joint. Some minor cases of TMD may see a benefit from a protective night guard such as the ones found here. Most cases will require a mouth guard that either stabilizes or repositions the jaw to properly treat a disorder.
Stabilization splints: Usually worn to prevent clenching and/or bruxism, these are flat and cover all of the teeth. They can be made out of soft or hard materials. These ease the temporomandibular joint muscles and can reduce facial pain stemming from overuse or exertion of the jaw muscles. They allow the joint to heal or reduce the inflammation that may lead to jaw pain. Professional fittings from a TMJ dentist is beneficial for most cases due to the need to understand the movement of the jaw muscles and the points of pressure within the joint. These may be worn 24 hours a day for up to 6-8 months pending the doctors recommendation.
Repositioning splints: Often referred to as oral orthotics, these splints attempt to pull the mandible (lower jaw) forward. They are usually worn 24 hours a day initially and once the pain has been eliminated, a more definitive long-term plan can be made. This repositioning of the jaw can help reduce jaw popping and clicking that occurs from a mis aligned TMJ.
The type of bite appliance you need is determined by the issues that have caused your condition, and in order to know that information, you need to see a specially trained dentist.
How Will a TMJD Dentist Know Which Night Guard is Right for Me?
Dr. Rod Strober is a San Diego based, LVI trained member of the Leading Dentist network of TMD specialists who recommends and fits mouth guards to treat some cases. Find a TMJ disorder dentist near you.
You need to see a dentist who has been trained beyond general dentistry in the science of neuromuscular dentistry. A neuromuscular dentist is concerned not only with the health of the teeth and gums, but also with the entire functional system that allows you to chew, swallow and speak. Specifically, that system includes the teeth, as well as the jaw joints and facial muscles used to open and close your mouth. By considering the position of the teeth in relation to the optimal function of the joints and muscles, the neuromuscular dentist seeks to restore a balanced relationship within that system for patients who are experiencing pain or reduced function.
Symptoms that may be reduced:
Once a neuromuscular dentist understands the imbalance among these complicated systems in your mouth, he or she can recommend the right mouth guard to treat your condition. This appliance may treat the following known causes of TMD symptoms:
-Excessive grinding or bruxism
-Worn articular disc
-Over active TMJ muscles or spasms
Sometimes, your condition may be rectified with an “over-the-counter” orthotic. Typically, though, the dentist will take a mold of your teeth for a custom mouth guard. Then, once your mouth guard is ready, your dentist will give you specific instructions for when and how often to wear it.
These are the steps your TMJ dentists will pursue with you:
1. Determine the root cause of your TMJ
2. Recommend the correct type of TMJ mouthguard
3. Custom fit the guard
4. Recommend a usage regimen personalized to your specific needs
Have you had success reducing your TMD symptoms after having a dentist fit a TMJ moutguard? Let us know a little about your experience with a comment below!
Or if you have not been fit and would like to consult with an experienced LVI trained TMD dentist near you, click here: Find a TMJ Specialist
Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bruxism/basics/definition/con-20029395