If you ask someone without TMJ what the symptoms of TMJ are, they’re likely to cite the popping and clicking sounds that can come from the jaw when it moves, or even the rare (but popularly misperceived as common) jaw lock.
But if you ask someone who suffers from TMJ about their symptoms, you’ll get a much longer, more unpleasant list. That list could include chronic migraines, excruciating jaw pain, and even pain in the back or ears … and that’s just the beginning. Living with TMJ means living with everything from discomfort to full-on pain that could start any time, and last any duration. That’s why often, when people are seeking TMJ treatment, they don’t just want an effective treatment — they want a fast treatment.
How Do Bite Splints Work?
When you see a bite splint, also known as an oral appliance, orthotic appliance, or stabilization splint, you may first think of an athlete’s mouth guard. They are certainly a similar shape, but while a mouth guard is designed to protect the teeth and jaw from a quarterback’s tackle or a high-flying puck, a bite splint’s purpose is closer to home.
In the mouth of someone with TMJ, there is a lot of tension. The misalignment of the jaw causes the entire muscular and skeletal structure of the mouth to be skewed and strained, putting pressure onto the fragile and complex joints. Until this tension is resolved, the jaw will continue to be under pressure, and the patient will continue to experience pain and worsening damage to their temporomandibular joints.
This is where neuromuscular dentistry comes in. A bite splint relieves this pressure by forcing the jaw into a healthier position. Not only does this reposition the jaw while the splint is being worn, but it also retrains the muscles of the jaw to hold themselves in a position of less tension.
Study Shows Benefits of Bite Splints
A recent study compiled data from 33 randomized controlled trials to learn more about the effects of bite splints on patients with TMJ. Researchers found that in the short term, bite splints showed much better results than other treatment options for TMJ. The researchers found that while the long term effects of a bite splint are equivalent to the long term effects of other therapeutic TMJ treatments, pain relief was the area where the bite splint really shined.
The data indicated that bite splints were extremely effective at pain reduction, caused a decrease in muscle tenderness, and improved patients’ mouth opening ability. The study also found that continuous use of the bite splint throughout the day (not just overnight) was a major contributing factor to the treatment’s efficacy.
There are a number of different treatments available to people who suffer from TMJ. But if you’re tired of those symptoms and ready for relief, a bite splint may be a speedy and effective option.
If you want to talk more about bite splints, Columbia, SC TMJ dentist Dr. Adam Hahn can help. Call (803) 781-9090 or contact us online to schedule an appointment and learn more about how an experienced TMJ dentist can treat symptoms with orthotic appliance therapy.