A TMJ mouth guard is a popular option for treating TMJ disorder. It can help with symptoms like headaches, jaw pain, teeth grinding and clicking, and jaw popping sounds, which can be uncomfortable, if not painful. Made of a ridged acrylic material, mouth guards fit over the teeth to serve as a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth. They can serve several purposes, depending on what an individual TMJ patient suffers from. These uses include helping alleviate teeth clenching, moving the jaw into the right position, and helping the jaw and facial muscles to relax, which can help relieve some TMJ discomfort.
Like athletic mouth guards, there are many places where TMJ mouth guards can be purchased. Some of these, such as the Pro Teeth Guard, do offer a level of customization. However, even if these over-the-counter options manage to help with certain issues such as night grinding or bruxism, and their prices may be tempting, the best chance of success comes with a custom-fit TMJ mouth guard. It’s recommended that patients with TMJ disorder consult with a trained neuromuscular dentist, who will have the tools and experience to help in choosing a TMJ mouth guard that fits to positively impact the position of the jaw.
How do neuromuscular dentists fit a TMJ guard?
In addition to examining the teeth as a general dentist does, a neuromuscular dentist will also take into consideration all the interconnected systems in the body that allow actions such as chewing, speaking, swallowing, and making facial expressions.
To treat TMJ dysfunction, the dentist will first take a complete history and perform an examination to determine the root cause of the disorder. If it is concluded that a mouth guard will help in reducing or alleviating TMJ symptoms, the next step is finding the best type of guard to address the specific symptoms of the individual patient. They will be fitted with a device that is custom-molded to the mouth. When it is completed, patients will be given specific instructions on when and for how long to wear it.
Conditions that make instructions vary from patient to patient include:
- If the patient experiences bruxism
- The position of the jaw, and if there is an improper bite
- If the patient experiences muscle spasms
- Whether there is an internal derangement of the TMJ such as a worn disc or arthritic condition
- If the patient experiences flare up (including jaw locking)
The guard must have a precise fit, which will require regular check-ups to make adjustments or modifications as necessary to ensure that it performs as expected.
It should be noted that, since every mouth is different, mouth guards sold online or in pharmacies will not offer a perfect fit. They can even cause more teeth clenching rather than reduce it if the fit is poor. Custom-fit mouth guards are the highest recommended type.