Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a painful and debilitating condition that causes your jaw bones and the surrounding muscles to work overtime. If you’re diagnosed with TMJ, then your specialist might recommend you try a device such as a mouth guard to correct problems with your bite. But will a mouth guard fix TMJ, and what type of mouth guard is best for relieving pain? Let’s take a look.
What Is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joints connect your jaw to your skull. If these joints aren’t moving correctly, or they’re overworked, then you could develop a range of symptoms including:
- facial pain
- jaw pain and stiffness
- neck pain
- popping or clicking sounds in your jaw
- teeth grinding
- tingling in your hands and arms
- tooth pain
There are many causes of TMJ – every individual is unique. The most common causes, however, include stress, general wear and tear on the joints, and bite abnormalities. Whatever the cause, though, TMJ is highly treatable through muscle relaxation techniques and devices such as mouth guards.
How Do Mouth Guards Work?
A mouth guard, also known as a splint or bite guard, is a device designed to fit around your teeth and restore an optimal bite position. They have many uses, such as:
- protecting your teeth from damage caused by grinding (bruxism);
- correcting an overbite or underbite;
- helping your facial and jaw muscles relax; and
- shielding your teeth and jaw structures from further wear and tear.
There are various types of guards or splints to choose from. For example, some mouth guards, known as “night guards”, are only worn at night and they protect your teeth from damage caused by teeth grinding while you sleep, but others are specifically designed to relieve jaw pressure.
Mouth guards can be purchased over-the-counter or they can be shaped to suit your individual jaw pattern. To get the most from a mouth guard, it’s strongly recommended that you seek professional treatment from TMJ specialists.
Should I Wear a Mouth Guard if I have TMJ?
Your specialist can determine if a mouth guard is the right treatment for your TMJ based on the underlying causes. However, for the right patient, devices such as splints and mouth guards can bring effective relief to symptoms such as jaw pain, stiffness, and teeth grinding.
In any case, however, it’s generally safe to at least try a mouth guard for a short period of time – mouth guards worn temporarily will not permanently alter your jaw position. Meaning, if the mouth guard does not relieve your pain, we can explore other options without compromising your bite pattern.
How Are TMJ Mouth Guards Fitted?
At Perfect White Smile, we work to restore the harmony between the muscles and bones in your head, neck, and jaw. Here’s what you can expect from your treatment.
- First, we relax your muscles using non-invasive medical devices such as TENs machines. This allows us to identify your optimal jaw position and bite pattern.
- With your muscles relaxed and decompressed, we take an impression of your bite and build a custom splint to stabilize your jaw in this new position. This device can be removable or non-removable depending on your health needs.
- Once you’re out of pain or your pain is greatly improved, we can use other dental enhancements, such as crowns or braces, to help maintain your new jaw position in the long term.
How Long Do Bite Guards for TMJ Pain Take to Work?
You might experience some symptomatic relief within a few weeks of starting treatment. However, it can take a number of months before you’ll know if the mouth guard has fully resolved your symptoms, especially if you have more complex TMJ symptoms or severe pain.
Will a Night Guard or Mouth Guard Fix TMJ?
These devices can help reduce pain and even resolve TMJ permanently depending on the underlying cause.
However, there is, of course, no guarantee any one type of treatment such as a splint or mouth guard will fix TMJ in the long term. At Perfect White Smile, our TMJ specialists can talk you through the pros and cons of trying mouth guards for TMJ pain relief.
Mouth Guards for TMJ Pain Relief
Are bite guards for TMJ helpful? For the right patient, absolutely. However, bite guards for TMJ generally work best when used as part of a more comprehensive treatment plan designed to correct the problem in the long term.
At Perfect White Smile, our TMJ specialists offer a wide range of therapies to support your jaw and oral health. We aim to restore healthy movement patterns in your jaw without surgery – so you’re out of pain with the least amount of intervention possible. However, if more permanent solutions are required, we can advise you what options are available depending on what’s causing your symptoms.