A Guide to TMJ Mouthguards

Everything You Need to Know About TMJ Mouthguards

If you’ve been experiencing TMJ pain, you’re probably ready to find relief. Most mild TMJ pain goes away after a couple of days of rest. But if your pain persists you need to look into other treatment options. The right treatment depends on your unique case. Sometimes you’ll require surgery in order to repair or reposition the synovial disc. But most of the time your doctor or dentist will recommend a TMJ mouthguard. TMJ mouthguards are the most common treatment for TMJ disorders. They serve the same purpose as a knee brace by supporting your jaw joint while you sleep.

Because TMJ mouthguards are so popular, we want to take some time to help you learn more about them. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about TMJ mouthguards. We’ll talk about how they work, why they’re so popular, who should use them, and pros and cons. We’ll also take a look at the different types of TMJ mouthguards so you can get an idea of what might be best for your situation.

Of course, we encourage you to discuss all of this with your doctor or dentist. They know your situation and will be able to advise you on the right path.

What is a TMJ Mouthguard?

A TMJ mouthguard is a mouthpiece that supports your jaw joint and protects your teeth from the effects of bruxism. It fits over your teeth much like a sports mouthguard. They’re usually worn at night and custom fitted by your dentist.

How do TMJ Mouthguards Work?

Different types of mouthguards serve different purposes.  The main function of most TMJ mouthguards is to absorb the pressure caused by bruxism. Bruxism happens when you grind your teeth and clench your jaw. Usually a natural response to stress, bruxism is a common cause of TMJ disorders. The continuous movement from bruxism puts excess pressure on the jaw joint. Over time your TMJ begins to break down, leading to a TMJ disorder. Bruxism damages your teeth as well.
What is a TMJ Mouthguard
Mouthguards help prevent bruxism, reducing the damage it causes to your jaw joints. They work similarly to a knee brace, supporting the joint while you sleep.   Some mouthguards also help reposition your jaw holding it in its proper position. 

Why Are Mouthguards so Effective?

When treating TMJ pain it’s important to take an orthopedic approach. This means we treat the TMJ like a joint. Your TMJ is like the other joints in your body. And so we need to treat it that way. If you injure your knee, your doctor may prescribe a brace. Knee braces work by restricting the range of motion of your knee and taking weight off of it. This prevents further damage to your joint. TMJ mouthguards work in the same way. They help keep your jaw still while you sleep. And they reduce any pressure caused by bruxism.  That’s why, for the right patients, TMJ mouthguards are so effective for treating jaw joint pain.

Who Needs a TMJ Mouthguard?

Mouthguards are a common treatment for TMJ pain. But they’re not always right for everyone. Because of how effectively they treat TMJ pain a lot of doctors will just prescribe them without making sure it’s what you need. So it’s important to see a doctor or dentist who will thoroughly investigate your TMJ disorder before offering treatment. So, how do you know if TMJ mouthguards are right for you? Are there cases where you shouldn’t use a mouthguard?  Well, the answer to those questions all depends on your unique case.  If your TMJ pain is caused by bruxism, then a mouthguard is the perfect solution. TMJ mouthguards are also great for treating mild to moderate jaw joint pain.  However, if you have severe TMJ pain a mouthguard may not be able to help. Usually, severe pain indicates that there is something else wrong with your joint. The damage may be so severe that a mouthguard won’t do any good.  Severe pain can also be a sign of a displaced synovial disc. In this case, surgery will be the best treatment. 

Pros and Cons of TMJ Mouthguards

Like with any treatment there are both pros and cons when it comes to TMJ mouthguards. It’s important to consider all of these as you explore your options.

Pros of TMJ Mouthguards

There are several advantages to TMJ mouthguards including: 
  • Protect your teeth from damage
  • Comfortable 
  • Noninvasive
Mouthguards can also promote a good night’s sleep. Because they reduce bruxism and TMJ pain most patients find they sleep much better at night.

Cons of TMJ Mouthguards.

Of course, all treatment options have their downsides. The cost of TMJ mouthguards is often an issue. While insurance will help pay for some of it, you may find yourself paying over $100.  You also have to make sure you take care of your mouthguard. Not cleaning it regularly will lead to bacteria growing inside of it, which can cause problems with your teeth. 

Types of Mouthguards

You also need to consider the type of mouthguard you’ll need. There are three main types of mouthguards for TMJ pain, stabilization splints, anterior bite planes, and repositioning splints. Your dentist will be able to help you find the right one for your situation. Stabilization splints cover all of your teeth. They prevent your jaw from closing completely. These types of mouthguards are “permissive,” which means they allow your jaw to move freely. Stabilization splints are great for preventing bruxism and protecting your teeth. Anterior bite planes are similar to stabilization splints. The only difference is that they don’t cover your back teeth. They are the best option for bruxism because they completely keep your jaws from clenching.  Repositioning splints are meant to change the relationship between the upper and lower jaw. These non-permissive mouthguards hold your jaw joints in proper alignment. 

What About Over-the-Counter Mouthguards?

As you’re doing research on TMJ mouthguards you may come across over-the-counter options. And as tempting as these may be, we always recommend getting a custom-fitted mouthguard from your dentist.  OTC mouthguards can actually do more harm than good. Getting the proper shape of your mouth is crucial to the effectiveness of TMJ mouthguards. A poorly fitted mouthguard will aggravate the muscles around the jaw joint. They can also force your teeth to shift. Shifted teeth force your jaw to work hard when you eat, leading to more TMJ pain.  Custom-made mouthguards, on the other hand, ensure a better, more comfortable fit. A better fit means better results. Your dentist also knows the details of your mouth and TMJ case, so they’re the best person to help you get the mouthguard you need.

TMJ Mouthguards May Be the Solution You Need 

As one of the most popular treatments for jaw joint pain, TMJ mouthguards may be the solution you need to get your life back. They take the pressure from bruxism off of your jaw joint, allowing it to heal. TMJ mouthguards are very successful for many patients who are suffering from TMJ pain. Of course, they’re not always right for everyone. You need to discuss everything with your doctor or dentist. Make sure they thoroughly diagnose your jaw joint pain before offering treatment.

Bjp-Team, B. (2022, October 3). What’s the Best Mouth Guard for TMJ Pain? QuickSplint®. https://quicksplint.com/resources/whats-the-best-mouth-guard-for-tmj-pain/

Bolding, S. (2022, November 11). TMJ Mouthguard: Everything You Need to Know | PRECiDENT. PRECiDENT | Center for Facial & Dental Medicine. https://precident.health/blog/tmj-mouthguard-everything-you-need-to-know

Gilmerm, G. (2021, April 28). Should You Use a Dental Mouthguard for Your Jaw Pain? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/should-you-use-a-dental-mouthguard-for-your-jaw-pain/

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