mouth guard

While one of the most important joints in the human body, the temporomandibular joint – which connects the skull to the jaw – is also one of the most problematic. You’ve likely heard of a condition known as “TMJ disorder,” characterized by pain, tenderness, swelling and other symptoms around the face and jaw. TMJ disorder is fairly common, and depending on the severity and the hypothesized reason for the pain and discomfort that an individual is experiencing, it can also be fairly easy to treat and manage.

One such means of treating TMJ disorder is splint therapy.

What is Splint Therapy?

In the case of splint therapy for TMJ disorder, the term “splint” refers to a mouth guard, bite plate or other type of oral apparatus prescribed by a dentist. These splints can be either hard or soft and can cover a few of the teeth or all of the teeth.

Just how does splint therapy help resolve TMJ pain and discomfort? It does so in a few ways:

  • When worn, splints allow jaw muscles and ligaments to relax, therefore preventing the occurrence of teeth grinding, clenching or other jaw reactions that may trigger TMJ pain and discomfort.
  • Aside from teeth grinding, or bruxism, it’s hypothesized that TMJ disorder can also stem from either an underbite or an overbite. This is thought to put added pressure on the jaw. However, administration of a splint can help angle the bite into a more optimal position, which can help alleviate tension in the jaw.

Another benefit to splint therapy, especially in the case of people who grind their teeth, is that splints can essentially prevent teeth from becoming worn down and help offset the other negative side effects of bruxism.

The Two Types of Splints

While splints can be either hard or soft and cover either all of the teeth or just a few of them, there are two general types of splints that do the job. These are:

  • Stabilization splints, which are worn to prevent teeth grinding and clenching. These types of splints cover all of the teeth and are typically just worn at night.
  • Repositioning splints, which are splints designed to correct bite occlusions. These splints are typically worn all day, every day.

While splints are effective for managing things like teeth grinding and bite occlusions, it’s important to note that they aren’t necessarily a permanent fix for them. That’s where dentists may recommend Phase II treatments, which include the likes of orthodontics, special dental work or even surgery to ensure that individuals don’t fall back into bad habits. For example, for those wearing a repositioning splint, the bite may have changed as a result. However, failure to wear the splint will cause the bite to fall back into the same uneven alignment.

For more information on splint therapy, how it works and other options for treating and managing TMJ disorder, contact Kanehl Dental today.