Everything You Need to Know About TMJ Mouthguards
by Dr. Scott Bolding | Aug. 30, 2021
Learn About TMJ Mouthguards
TMJ mouthguards are a common non-surgical treatment option for TMJ disorders. And while we believe that TMJ mouthguards are effective treatments for TMJ disorders, they may not always be right for everyone. Like with any type of medical treatment, it’s important for you to get a very thorough diagnosis first. Your doctor should spend time inspecting your jaw joint so they can know for sure if a mouthguard will really work for you.
One of the most common causes of TMJ disorders is grinding your teeth, usually associated with stress and anxiety. Teeth grinding along with clenching the jaw puts extra pressure on the jaw joint. TMJ Mouthguards work by absorbing this pressure.
One of the advantages of using a TMJ mouthguard is that, even if just for a short period of time, they will inevitably protect your teeth against damage. Not only that, but any symptoms you may be facing–jaw pain, tenderness, ear aches, difficulty chewing, etc.–can potentially be treated with a mouthguard. Since the TMJ mouthguards we offer are all custom-made, they will also be more comfortable and durable than some alternative options.
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What is a TMJ Mouthguard?
A TMJ mouthguard is an oral appliance primarily used to protect your teeth, gums, and jaw from injury. This mouthpiece is typically fitted on the upper jaw and works by “absorbing” the pressure your jaw subconsciously puts on your teeth, gums, and TMJ. Essentially, a TMJ mouth guard acts as a cushion piece for your mouth.
How Do TMJ Mouthguards Treat Jaw Joint Pain?
TMJ mouthguards can help treat jaw joint pain by:
- Prevent further damage to your teeth
- Keep you from clenching or grinding your teeth
- Hold your jaw in the correct position to adjust a faulty bite
- Help your jaw and facial muscles relax to reduce muscle spasms and, in turn, pain
- Prevent your jaw from locking up, clicking, or popping
Who are TMJ Mouthguards Best for?
Those who experience one or more of the following TMJ disorder symptoms might benefit from a TMJ mouthguard. However, you should speak with your medical team to make sure that TMJ mouthguards are right for you.
TMJ disorder symptoms include:
- Jaw pain or tenderness (in one or both joints)
- Aches in or near the ear
- Difficulty or pain while chewing
- Head, face, and/or neck pain
- Locked joint(s)–unable to open or close your mouth with ease
- A clicking or popping jaw
Even if you have not yet developed a TMJ disorder, but still suffer from jaw-related issues like bruxism (clenching or grinding your teeth), a TMJ mouthguard could help you as well. It can even prevent a TMJ disorder from developing in the future due to untreated symptoms.
Can I Use an Over-the-Counter Moutguard?
One of the first questions you may be asking is: Do over-the-counter (OTC) mouthguards work? The short answer is no. While this may be the easier and cheaper option as opposed to custom-made TMJ mouthguards or other alternatives, OTC mouthguards inevitably do not work. In fact, they can do more harm than good.
There are two types of OTC mouthguards on the market today. One is a “one size fits all” type of appliance. The other is called “boil and bite” because it contains a mold that you warm in hot water before biting down on it. That mold is then used as the basis for your mouth guard. While “boil and bite” does provide a better fit for your teeth than the “one size fits all,” it still does not completely accommodate each person’s unique mouth shape; therefore, neither option is preferable. For one thing, if the mouth guard doesn’t provide a fully comfortable bite or proper fit, then your muscles may respond poorly to it–which can cause additional pain and aggravation. Your teeth could also shift and create even more problems than before.
At the same time, there are some potential benefits to using OTC mouthguards. If your symptoms are mild enough, this option might help–and at a lower cost. It could also provide temporary relief, which is ideal if you are waiting for your surgery date or another alternative to come your way. But if neither of those options fit your situation, you don’t want to settle–especially if it means your symptoms could get worse because of it. Always speak to a specialist before making this decision.
Why Are Custom TMJ Mouthguards Better?
Although OTC mouthguards have limited usage, custom ones are much more reliable and have the potential to solve your TMJ problems for good. They are designed by actual dentists who have the ability to create a more accurate and personable mouth guard for you.
There are several types of custom guards, including the following: stabilization splints, anterior bite planes, and repositioning splints. Stabilization splints fit over the upper teeth to prevent teeth grinding and jaw soreness. They ease pain by reducing the overuse or extension of jaw muscles. Anterior bite planes also fit on the upper jaw but only come in contact with the 6 bottom front teeth. Its purpose is to prevent both grinding and clenching by keeping the back teeth from coming in contact with one another. Repositioning splints, on the other hand, fit on the lower jaw to pull it forward or backward. This splint primarily helps with TMJ disc displacement.
Custom-made TMJ mouthguards will ensure a better and more comfortable fit. In addition, you will notice increased relief–and for a longer duration. They are thinner, yet more durable, than store-bought guards and will bring your teeth together more naturally. The lifespan varies, depending on wear and care, but custom guards typically last years longer than over-the-counter ones. So while OTC guards may be cheaper individually, they don’t last as long and would need to be replaced more often.
What are the Pros of a TMJ Mouthguard?
One of the advantages to using a TMJ mouthguard is that, even if just for a short period of time, they will inevitably protect your teeth against damage. Not only that, but any symptoms you may be facing–jaw pain, tenderness, ear aches, difficulty chewing, etc.–can potentially be treated with a TMJ mouthguard. Since the mouthguards we offer are all custom-made, they will also be more comfortable and durable than some alternative options.
If you suffer from bruxism (clenching and grinding your teeth), TMJ mouthguards can relax your jaw and facial muscles to stop your symptoms from occurring. This will, in turn, reduce muscle spasms and relieve any pain you may be experiencing with your teeth, jaw, head, face, and/or neck. A reduction in bruxism can also improve your chewing experience and possibly unlock your jaw, keeping you from having to deal with that continuous clicking or popping sound. If your jaw is misaligned or underdeveloped, it can even restore your natural bite.
But no matter your specific issue, a custom mouthguard will always promote a good night’s sleep and prevent further damage.
What are the Cons of a Mouthguard?
In terms of custom TMJ mouthguards, one of the largest disadvantages is the price. It varies by type and material, but you will likely have to spend over $100. The good news, though, is that they are typically covered fully or partially by insurance. Over-the-counter mouthguards, on the other hand, are completely bought out-of-pocket–no matter what insurance plan you have or how often you need a new one.
In addition to the cost, mouthguards are not the solution for everyone. Not to say they won’t work because lots of people benefit from their use, even if just for a short period. But they don’t always work long-term. And if the root of your problem is something like stress, nothing will work for your symptoms except treatments directed toward that source.
Finally, without the proper care, mouthguards can become useless. You have to know how to take care of your appliance. It is important to follow the instructions a specialist gives you to ensure your mouth guard does not warp or grow unhealthy bacteria and make matters worse.
What are Some Alternatives to TMJ Mouthguards?
One alternative, or addition, to using a mouthguard is to make temporary lifestyle changes. You want to treat your TMD like you would any other injury, so try to rest the area and reduce inflammation. You can do this by eating softer foods, avoiding chewy meats and candies (especially gum!!), applying ice or heat to your jaw, occasionally massaging your jaw muscles, performing TMJ exercises, or taking over-the-counter medication (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, or muscle relaxers). However, it is important that you talk to your doctor or dentist before trying any exercises or taking medication.
Another option is to receive an injection of botulinum toxin (also known as Botox) into your jaw. This relaxes the jaw muscles to ease tightness, pain, and wear on the TMJ. A final treatment option is surgery, but this is typically used as a last resort and depends considerably on the cause of your TMD. If necessary, though, it can be greatly beneficial.
TMJ Mouthguard Resources
The Right Diagnosis Will Help You
Find the Right Treatment Option.
Without knowing the root cause of your TMJ issues, you could receive the wrong treatment, and your symptoms could get worse. The right treatment option for you depends on your unique situation. It’s important you speak with a specialist to learn all of your options before moving forward. Many patients benefit from simple non-surgical options, while others need surgery in order to find true relief.