What is TMJ Splint Therapy? Is It Effective?

What is TMJ Splint Therapy? Is It Effective?

Imagine waking up daily with throbbing facial pain or tender facial muscles or dealing with stiffness and jaw pain throughout the day, even during simple tasks like speaking and chewing. According to the National Library of Medicine, that is the reality for approximately 31% of adults and 11% of children in the general population. 

TMJ Splint therapy is considered a way to relieve Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJD). But is it really effective? Stay tuned to find out. 

What are TMJ Disorders?

The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is the only movable joint of your head. It functions like a hinge, connecting your lower jaw to the skull, enabling you to perform functions like chewing, talking, yawning, etc. 

Being the doorway to your mouth, the seamless functioning of this joint is of utmost importance to maintain the quality of life. A condition that disrupts its normal function and/or causes pain during use is known as a Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.

What Causes Them?

When your TMJ is put under excessive strain, the disc lying between the two bony parts sometimes gets displaced from its original position, causing a ‘clicking’ sound and pain. If not tended to, it can even lead to the locking of the joint, hindering normal mouth opening. Some of the causative agents are:

  • Dental restorations that cause uneven bite.
  • Medical conditions that cause inflammation of the joint, i.e., osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Spasms in the jaw muscles that cause myofascial pain.
  • Stress-induced clenching or grinding of teeth.
  • Malaligned teeth.
  • Trauma to the jaw.

What are some Common Symptoms?

When the normal anatomy of your Temporomandibular joint is disturbed, it produces several symptoms that confirm the dysfunction. Here is a list of these symptoms for better understanding and identification. 

  • Pain in the temple area. 
  • Headaches.
  • Painful jaw movements.
  • Stiffness of the jaw.
  • Pain radiating to face and neck. 
  • Improper alignment of teeth.
  • Earaches or ringing ears. 

What is TMJ Splint Therapy?

TMJ Splint Therapy involves the correction of jaw alignment with the help of TMJ splints. TMJ splints, also called bite splints or occlusal splints are custom-made acrylic devices that fit the teeth and alleviate symptoms of TMJ dysfunction. It is a non-surgical, non-invasive procedure that improves jaw function and mobility. 

There are a number of over-the-counter occlusal plates or night guards available in the market, but dental experts negate the use of these self-prescribed appliances because if not used correctly, they can worsen the condition. 

How Does It Treat TMJD?

To understand the effect of occlusal splints on TMJ, consider the example of a back brace. A supportive back brace takes the strain off your lower back during long, standing hours; similarly, a TMJ splint releases stress from your TMJ. This is how it does so,

  • A TMJ Splint improves the alignment of your upper and lower jaw ( by correcting overbites and open bites), making the jaw stable and relieving TMJ and surrounding tissues.
  • By distributing the mastication forces evenly it relieves pressure from specific teeth and areas of the joint. 
  • It acts as a cushion against parafunctional habits like clenching and grinding of teeth, relaxing the TMJ.

What are TMJ Splint Types?

In order to get the most out of the Temporomandibular joint dysfunction splint, you must get the right type of splint for your specific condition. Although of various types, TMJ splints are divided broadly into the following two categories for better understanding.

Stabilization Splints:

Stabilization Splints, also known as Permissive splints, as their name suggests, are used to stabilize the bite. These types of splints are indicated in patients having parafunctional habits like clenching and nocturnal bruxism. These splints cover all the teeth of your upper and lower jaw so that they don’t come in direct contact and prevent enamel wear. Stabilization splints are only worn at night time. 

Repositioning Splints:

Repositioning splints, also known as Non-permissive splints or directive splints, reposition the jaw. These splints are indicated in patients who have shifted jaws due to trauma, misaligned teeth, or underlying medical conditions. Repositioning splints have to be worn all the time, except during meals, for best results. If not worn constantly, the teeth can relapse to their former position. Some examples of these splints are,

  • Anterior Repositioning Appliances (ARA)
  • Mandibular Orthotic Repositioning Appliances (MORA)

What is the Procedure for Getting TMJ Splints?

An expert will first evaluate your symptoms, oral cavity, and TMJ. If needed, they may carry out imaging of the temporomandibular joint and surrounding tissues. Once accessed, a TMJD diagnosis will be made and discussed with you along with a treatment plan. 

If you’re a candidate for TMJ splints, they will record an impression of your oral cavity, which will be used to fabricate a custom-fitted acrylic splint. 

Then you’ll have a fitting appointment in which they will place the splints and will talk you through the timings for which you have to wear them, and instructions for their maintenance. Finally, after a trial period of a few weeks, you will adjust to wearing TMJ splints. They then will schedule regular follow-ups to monitor your treatment progress. 

Is TMJ Splint Therapy Effective?

After monitoring the TMJ splint before and after in TMD patients, the National Library of Medicine concludes that splint therapy does reduce pain in temporomandibular disorders, and clicking becomes less frequent in patients experiencing it. Moreover, patients who had a minimum mouth opening of less than 45 mm also benefitted from TMJ splints. 

According to another study published in the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry, patients in the treatment group during an occlusal splint therapy had their symptoms improved significantly. 

Based on this research, we can confidently say that TMJ Splint Therapy is an effective treatment option for patients suffering from TMJD. 

Conclusion

To conclude the discussion, one suffering from a TMJ dysfunction has a compromised quality of life. If you’re experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with our experts for TMD treatments in Montclair, NJ. Book your appointment now at Dr. Arthur Yeh & Associates and take the first step towards a pain-free, happy life.



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