If you see a general dentist for TMJ disorder, their first line of treatment is typically a TMJ appliance, or mouthguard. Unfortunately, this is often the only line of treatment they offer. At TMJ Plus, we have a number of different treatment options for TMJ pain, which allows us to take a highly customized approach to your disorder. We work to understand the underlying cause of your pain and develop a treatment plan just for you. When we do determine that a TMJ appliance can help, we offer custom-fitted mouthguards to provide you with relief.
What Is a TMJ Mouthguard?
TMJ mouthguards are known by a number of different names—TMJ appliances, mouthguards, biteguards, and stabilization splints. Many TMJ appliances are made with a BPA-free acrylic resin, and they can be designed in different ways and for different purposes. Some are only used on the lower teeth, others only on the upper teeth, or they can be used on both; they can simply be used to physically prevent teeth grinding or they may work to reposition the jaw.
You may have seen TMJ mouthguards online or in stores, but these over-the-counter TMJ appliances are nowhere near as effective as ones designed by a qualified dentist like Dr. Coats. In fact, some of them may actually worsen your condition. Even a boil-and-bite mouthguard that claims to offer a customized product isn’t the same as a mouthguard fitted by your dentist, as the material is not as effective and it doesn’t perform the same function.
A skilled TMJ specialist creates mouthguards to accommodate your specific anatomy, bite, jaw position, relaxed muscles of the jaw and teeth shape. They also follow up with you regularly to ensure that your TMJ appliance is continuing to work as intended. In some cases, a TMJ specialist may work in collaboration with an osteopath or chiropractor to determine the best course of treatment.
Types of TMJ Appliances
There are a few different options when it comes to your mouthguard design. These include:
The simplest type of TMJ appliance and the kind most likely to be offered by a general dentist, a stabilization splint covers your teeth to cover teeth for protection from your grinding in your sleep. It provides protection from dental damage, but in some cases, it can exacerbate TMJ pain.
These splints reposition your lower jaw to relieve pressure. Depending on your jaw anatomy, the repositioning may either be forward or backward. Close supervision is needed with repositioning splints, as they have the potential to change your bite.
Nociceptive Trigeminal Inhibition Tension Suppression System (NTI-tss)
A relatively newer solution that was approved by the FDA in 1998, NTI-tss works by triggering the inhibition reflex of the trigeminal nerve, which naturally relaxes the muscles in your jaw to provide pain relief. It is worn only on your two front teeth. Some concerns of NTI is that the back teeth are not supported and only the front teeth touch. If the front teeth touch only then that can trigger the temple muscle to spams and could cause temple headaches.
Which TMJ Mouthguard Is Right for You?
The key factor in deciding which type of mouthguard (if any) is the best for your needs is to determine if your TMJ pain is caused by teeth grinding and jaw clenching, or if there are other factors at play. In other words, will you need a splint that simply prevents bruxism? Or do you need a solution that prevents bruxism and provides jaw muscle and joint protection by decompressing the TMJ? Considering snoring and jaw position while sleeping is also important for muscles and breathing and mouth guard type. It is often the case that jaw position and pain is tied into to snoring . Many times a Tmj mouth guard can be designed to also help the jaw position for airway and breathing.
While some clinicians boast certain brands of TMJ appliances, it’s really not the brand that matters—it’s having the experience to understand the right technique for your body. Different patients, different bites, and different types of pain all have different requirements for treatment. It’s important not to take a one-size-fits-all approach. Ask Dr. Coats how she goes about measuring the muscles and the bite with technology and tests to show the right position for your relief.
Schedule an Appointment With Dr. Coats Today
If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Coats to find out which type of TMJ mouthguard is right for you or to learn more about our practice, contact us today at 817-481-6888.