If you are experiencing any of the painful symptoms of TMJ disorder, like headaches, jaw pain, teeth grinding and clicking and jaw popping sounds – you may have heard how a choosing to use a TMJ mouth guard can help.
Mouth guards (also called splints or orthotics) are devices made of a rigid acrylic material that fit over your teeth. Often serving as a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth, mouth guards can serve a number of purposes depending on what ails a particular TMJ dysfunction sufferer. Some of those purposes include helping to keep you from clenching your teeth, moving the jaw into the right position and helping your jaw and facial muscles to relax. By reducing tension on those jaw muscles, some patients experience relief of TMJ discomfort.
There are many places to purchase mouth guards online and in stores – and the prices of these “over the counter” devices may be tempting, however, your best chance of success TMJ mouth guard comes when consulting a trained neuromuscular dentist. They will have the tools and experience to fit you help in choosing a TMJ mouth guard that is, first, right for you and second, molded to positively impact the position of your jaw. In order to relieve TMJ symptoms, a mouth guard should not be viewed as a one-size-fits-all device.
How Do Neuromuscular Dentists Fit TMJ Guard?
In addition to examining your teeth, a neuromuscular dentist takes into consideration all the inter- connected systems in your body that allow you to chew, speak, swallow and make facial expressions.
A dentist with experience in treating TMJ dysfunction will take a complete history and perform an examination to determine the root cause of your TMJ disorder symptoms. He or she will then determine if a mouth guard will help reduce or alleviate those symptoms.
This professional will determine which type of guard is best for your specific symptoms and will fit you with a device that is custom molded for your mouth. When the device is ready, your dentist will give you specific instructions on when and for how long to wear it.
Some of the conditions that make these instructions variable from person to person include:
- If the patient experiences bruxism (teeth grinding)
- The position of the jaw, if there is an improper bite
- If the patient experiences muscle spasms
- Whether there is internal derangement of the TMJ such as a worn disc or arthritic condition
- If the patient experiences flare up that include jaw locking
Since the design of the guard requires a precise fit, your dentist will check it regularly and make any necessary adjustments or modifications so that it performs the way it is intended.
Since everyone’s mouth is slightly different, it makes sense that devices sold online or in pharmacies may not adequately cover all your teeth. In addition, a poor fit may actually prompt more teeth clenching rather than less.