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Exploring Mouth Guards for TMJ: Function and Benefits

May 25, 2023

What is TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is what connects your jaw to your skull. If you’re like most people, you may not give it much thought. However, you use it a lot- when you chew, swallow, and talk.

TMJ disorder, or TMD, is a condition in which something has gone wrong in the jaw, primarily due to inflammation, overuse, or injury.

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The common symptoms of TMJ disorder include:

  • Pain in the ear, jaw, neck, and/or face
  • Pain when chewing
  • Headaches
  • Locking of the jaw joint
  • Headaches
  • Clicking/popping sounds coming from the jaw

In some cases, TMJ is tied to sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea with TMJ, Quality Sleep Solutions can help. In this article, we’ll explain more about the functionality and benefits of mouthguards for TMJ disorder.  

Mouth Guard for TMJ - What are they and how do they work?

Some of the most common lifestyle change recommendations that dentists make when diagnosing a patient with TMJ are:

  • Wearing a mouthguard
  • Eat soft foods
  • Use ice packs to soothe inflammation in the joint
  • Taking pain medications

In more severe cases, surgical intervention is often recommended.

One of the most common reasons that a mouthguard is recommended is because this dental appliance can ease some of the symptoms associated with TMJ.

A TMJ mouthguard can be worn at night to help stop nighttime bruxism, which will ease some of the pain. There are several different types of mouthguards on the market. Some are designed to stabilize teeth, while others are designed to reposition the jaw. However, the latter should not be used unless under the direction of a dental professional.

How a Mouthguard can help with TMJ pain

A mouthguard is used to manage the symptoms associated with TMJ by preventing tooth grinding. This reduces tension in the jaw joint, which reduces pain. Additionally, a mouthguard cushions the jaw, reducing inflammation and allowing the joint to move more smoothly.

What are the sources of TMJ Pain?

In most cases, the cause of TMJ is unclear. However, there are several possible causes for TMJ, including:

  • Erosion or movement of the disk from proper alignment
  • Damage to the cartilage due to arthritis
  • Joint damage due to impact

There are also a few factors that may increase your risk of TMJ, including:

  • Arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Injury of the jaw
  • Long-term clenching/grinding
  • Connective tissue disorders that impact the jaw joint

Types of Mouthguards for TMJ

If you are considering using a mouthguard for your TMJ pain, it’s important to know about all of your options. Mouthguards are classified based on type, pain relief, and modality.

  • Classification of Mouthguards for TMJ

    There are two primary classifications of TMJ mouthguards:

    • Stabilization splints

      A stabilization splint is designed to cover the entire arch of teeth to prevent clenching and bruxism. They may be hard or soft and ease pain associated with TMJ by preventing the jaw muscles from overworking or overextending.

    • Repositioning splints

      A repositioning splint pulls the lower jaw forward. When you begin treatment with this type of splint, it may need to be worn all day and all night. However, once the pain begins to ease, the dentist will create a treatment plan for long-term use and you may not need to continue wearing it all day.

  • Types of Mouthguards for TMJ based on Pain

    Pain with TMJ can be acute or chronic.

    • Acute

      In some cases, TMJ only happens once in a while. In this case, a temporary mouthguard can be used. These mouthguards are often designed for short-term use and are disposed of once the TMJ episode is over.

    • Chronic

      On the other hand, for some patients, TMJ is chronic and lasts for a long time. In this case, a mouthguard can help ease the symptoms. However, a more permanent solution will need to be used to resolve the issue.

  • Classification of Mouthguards for TMJ based on Modality

    Mouthguards may also be obtained through the dentist’s office or over-the-counter.

    • Over-the-Counter Mouthguards

      There are three types of OTC mouthguards on the market:

      • Boil-and-bite: can be molded to fit teeth by boiling and then biting down. Once it cools off, it is no longer moldable.
      • One-size: cannot be adjusted at all
      • Adjustable: can be placed in warm water and remolded as needed
    • Custom Fitted Mouthguards for TMJ

      If you are going to use a mouthguard for TMJ, a custom option is the best.

      You can obtain a custom mouthguard through the dentist or by mail order. You get a kit and create the impression of your teeth. This will be sent to the lab for the fabrication of your mouthguard and the company will keep the impression on file in case you need a new one in the future.

Key Features to Look for in a TMJ Mouthguard

There are several features that you should look for in a TMJ mouthguard, including:

  • Easy to mold/remold
  • Comfortable
  • Hygienic

Are Mouthguards a permanent solution for TMJ?

While a mouthguard can be a good temporary solution for treating TMJ, it is not a permanent solution. After all, a mouthguard doesn’t treat the root of the issue, just the symptoms.

Quality Sleep Solutions offers a holistic approach. We offer a painless approach to diagnosing and treating your sleep disorders. We take the time to communicate with you about the status of your overall health. We fabricate a custom appliance that will allow you to breathe without experiencing any sleep apnea episodes.

Our approach is affordable and convenient, and in most cases, medical insurance will cover a portion of treatment. We have 5 convenient locations in South Carolina to serve you. Schedule your consultation today to learn more about our sleep apnea solutions.

FAQs related to Mouthguard for TMJ

If you have any questions regarding TMJ treatment options, let the team at Quality Sleep Solutions help. We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions below:
You should only continue to wear a mouthguard for TMJ as long as your symptoms persist. If you have been wearing it and it is not showing signs of wear, you may not need it anymore. Make sure to always bring your mouthguard with you when you visit the dentist for your 6-month exam and cleaning.
No, Medicare does not cover mouthguards for TMJ because it is considered a dental appliance.
Mouthguards can be good for TMJ- however, this is not a permanent solution. There are other more permanent solutions, such as those offered by Quality Sleep Solutions.
No, a sports mouthguard should not be used for TMJ. Sports mouthguards are typically made of a firmer plastic, which can be bulky to wear while sleeping and may cause damage to teeth.

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