For the oral cavity to function properly, every component must work in alignment, from facial muscles down to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ disorders affect oral functions, and a dentist may recommend stabilization splints, which is the standard TMJ device. Splints can alleviate pain and stiffness around the joints. While the symptoms can improve without dental or medical treatment, the relief will only be temporary unless a permanent solution is provided for the underlying problem.
How splints work
TMJ disorder often causes symptoms, such as jaw pain, restricted movement, clicking, popping, cracking or cracking sounds, facial muscle spasms and headaches radiating from the ear. To diagnose the cause, the dentist will evaluate jaw movement, as well as the teeth and facial muscles for signs of tenderness and teeth grinding.
TMJ splints can reduce the symptoms of TMJ by lowering pressure on the jaw joints and readjusting the bite. The stabilization splint, also known as a bite plate or bite guard, is the standard device for TMJ disorder. As the TMJ Association describes it, a splint is a strong dental device created from acrylic resin that sits over the lower or upper teeth. The device restricts the teeth from touching each other. When the teeth meet the splint, they meet in a harmless and correct position. Patients need to wear the splints throughout the day, but the dentist may also recommend night guards to be worn when the patient is sleeping.
In rare cases, the dentist may recommend a different type of splint known as the mandibular repositioning (MORA) splint, which corrects bite misalignment of the upper and lower teeth. By realigning the jaw, extended use of the splint can cause lasting improvements for the patient.
Benefits of using TMJ splints
TMJ splints decrease pressure on the jaw joints and muscles and help to restrict teeth grinding habits in patients. However, going by the report of TMJ Association (TMJA), studies regarding the efficiency of stabilization splints in alleviating TMJ have been inconclusive. The association suggests that patients avoid wearing splints for extended periods. If the splint causes or exacerbates TMJ pain, patients must stop using the device and contact their dentist for information.
The use of MORA is considered extreme and invasive since it may result in lasting alterations to the bite. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research strongly advises against the use of splints that cause permanent changes to the jaw.
Splints, night guards and MORA are removable devices, meaning their use should not disturb your oral care routine. Dentists recommend brushing with soft-bristled toothbrushes and dedicating extra time to cleaning the teeth thoroughly since jaw problems may make it hard to reach certain areas in the mouth.
A TMJ disorder is a painful condition that may disrupt your daily routine, like talking, eating and drinking. When you visit the dental office for treatment, splints are one of the few options the dentist might recommend for relief. If you have questions about splints, ensure you ask during your appointment.
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