TMJ Disorder Splint Therapy
Treatment for TMJ disorder can vary from simple self-care techniques to complex surgical procedures. One of the first stops in TMJ disorder treatment for most patients is splint therapy.
You are probably familiar with what a splint is, as they are widely used for sports and some medical conditions such as sleep apnea. Other words for splints are “mouth guard,” “bite plate,” “bite appliance,” “mouthpiece,” “orthotic,” “nightguard,” and/or “occlusal appliance.”
Splints are made of plastic, and can be hard or soft. They can cover all of the teeth, or a select few teeth, and can be worn on the bottom or top teeth depending on what the particular splint is for and the preferences of the dentist.
How Do Splints Work? There are a couple theories on why splint therapy may help relieve jaw pain in some TMJ disorder patients: They allow the muscles & ligaments to relax, therefore ridding the facial muscles of the tension and tightness that bruxism, clenching, or other jaw problems may cause. If the patient grinds their teeth (bruxes), splints may protect them from more wear of the teeth, preventing pain, sensitivity, and jagged edges. If a patients bite (occlusion: the way teeth fit together) is off or not right for his or her jaw joints, a splint may adjust the bite into what many dentists feel is a more optimum position, which then allows for the muscles to rest.